NordAq Energy is at an advanced stage of permitting for a possible new natural gas development in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
The company can't yet say the prospect can be commercially produced, but an initial test well "was encouraging," Glenn Ruckhaus, a NordAq official, said at a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public information session held in Anchorage Jan. 10.
Doing more testing will require building a 2.7-mile gravel road into the wildlife refuge from adjacent state lands, and a gravel pad to support drilling.
NordAq did its initial test well with a snow road and ice pad but got caught in an early thaw and was unable to complete its testing of the well.
NordAq worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on access to the site and decided to do a full environmental impact statement, or EIS, for a full development project, which could involve six producing wells.
The draft EIS is now being completed and will be published in early February. That will have a public review and will be followed by a final EIS, which will get another period for public comment.
NordAq hopes for a Record of Decision on the EIS in April, and to get other permits shortly after.
The proposed production site is only 3.8 miles from an existing gas pipeline, and once final permission is granted it could be put into operation fairly quickly, possibly as early as 2015.
That would be good news for utilities in Southcentral Alaska who are forecasting shortages of gas supplies from existing fields by 2015.
NordAq's site is also about two miles west of the Swanson River field, a long-producing oil field.
The subsurface mineral rights at the location are owned by Cook Inlet Region Inc., the Anchorage-based Alaska regional Native corporation, which owns some subsurface rights in the wildlife refuge.
CIRI leased the exploration and development rights to NordAq.
Under terms of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation Act, or ANILCA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can't deny CIRI access to its mineral lands, the agency said in information materials on the EIS.
"There is not a 'no action' alternative," the agency said in the materials. The agency does establish terms under which access is granted, but they must not be unreasonable, according to the information.