Alaska News

Looming Cook Inlet gas shortages may be crippling

Looming natural gas shortages in Cook Inlet cannot be avoided unless producers can somehow double or triple their output within three years, according to the Peninsula Clarion.

That's the conclusion of the report from Petrotechnical Resources of Alaska that updates a similar 2010 report from the same firm. Chugach Electric Association, Municipal Light and Power, ENSTAR Natural Gas, and Homer Electric Association paid for the report.

How bad is the situation?

The 2010 report concluded that Cook Inlet natural gas producers needed to drill at least 13 new wells a year to match projected demand and stave off dwindling production. Five wells were drilled in 2010, seven in 2011 and just four during the first half of 2012. All together, according to Peter Stokes of Petrotechnical Resources, 31 million cubic feet per day of gas needs to be added each year through 2019 to avoid shortfalls. "It is a lot," he told the Clarion.

Cook Inlet gas provides all of ENSTAR's supply, 90 percent of Chugach's and 88 percent of ML&P's.

The combination of declining reserves and the lead time required before new exploration can deliver gas to market creates the crisis, Stokes told the Clarion.

"There is a lot of activity going on, a lot of exploration going on, but unfortunately, exploration, if it is going to be a meaningful discovery, is not likely able to be brought on quick enough to avoid this near-term shortfall," Sokes said.


The time from new discovery to market is anywhere from three to five years depending on location and permitting, Stokes said.

Large legacy drilling units in Cook Inlet are facing a predicted annual declines between 10 and 26 percent. Consequently, projections show the Cook Inlet supply crashing from about 107 billion cubic feet this year to about 20 billion in 2020.

Craig Medred

Craig Medred is a former writer for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch and Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2015.