The Alaska gas line corporation is planning a summit in March as it attempts to woo commercial customers to support its $45 billion Alaska LNG project, with tours planned to the North Slope and in Southcentral Alaska and a chance to see the ceremonial start of the Iditarod.
The summit, scheduled for March 1 to March 6, is expected to cost about $200,000, though the state is trying to secure corporate sponsors to help share the tab. About 15 officials from about 10 companies in Japan, Korea and Singapore are expected to attend, with guests staying at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood.
The companies represent a big share of the long-term liquefied natural gas market in Asia, said Keith Meyer, president of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. He said on Thursday that he was not ready to name them for competitive reasons, but that the information would be available later.
The state is currently looking for new customers and other partners for the project after ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips backed off over cost concerns. The companies say they'll support the state-led effort and Alaska's attempts to lower the cost of the project. ConocoPhillips might help the state with marketing while BP has agreed to help pursue financing options and do other work.
The state wants to find utilities, such as electric companies, willing to commit to buy North Slope gas or invest in the project. The agreements could be used to attract financing for the project.
The summit will include a trip to Prudhoe Bay where the giant reserves of natural gas would be tapped for the project, with oil-field operator BP helping host the tour, Meyer said. The group will also tour the ConocoPhillips Kenai LNG plant, near the proposed marine terminal in Nikiski where gas would be super-chilled into a liquid and loaded on oceangoing tankers.
The events will take place over three days, including a conference in Girdwood on March 3, with Alaska agencies, lawmakers and businesses explaining details about the project, officials said. Guests will also have extra time to tour Alaska on their own, or schedule additional meetings with AGDC officials before they leave, Meyer said.
The effort is meant to build on relationships developed on marketing trips to Asia by Gov. Bill Walker, Meyer and other state officials as they promoted the project and scouted for buyers, Meyer said.
It would give the potential customers a better understanding of the project and the advantages Alaska can offer, such as a large, stable supply of gas that will last for decades. A goal is giving "decision-makers" comfort that Alaska is a good place to invest in.
Private sponsors so far include BP, Hawk Consultants, a project management services firm, and Calista Corp., a Native corporation.
AGDC has recently hired contractors to help provide marketing services in Houston and Tokyo. It's looking to soon hire a financial adviser and a contractor to provide engineering services as the project pursues regulatory approval.
With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe considering buying more supplies of energy from the United States, and with President Donald Trump promising to invest in domestic infrastructure projects, AGDC is "actively engaged" in trying to elevate the project's profile on Trump's agenda, Meyer said. He declined to provide further details.
Abe plans to meet Trump Friday in the White House to discuss trade and other issues.
"We have a number of asks we'd like the administration to consider," said Meyer, noting that Alaska LNG is a large construction and export project that can meet energy needs in a geopolitically important part of the world.
"Our project should be America's infrastructure project," he said.
With the state now running Alaska LNG, AGDC is looking for ways to reduce costs. It plans to base the project on market demand, potentially starting small with initial costs possibly around $20 billion before the project expands, Meyer said. He estimated full costs for the project at between $40 billion and $45 billion.
The cost was initially pegged at $45 billion to $65 billion, but ExxonMobil, shortly before pulling out of the project, reported that it had moved costs to the lower end of that range.
One way to save up-front costs is phasing in portions of the liquefaction facilities in Nikiski, adding capacity as demand requires, Meyer said.
He said the agency is interested in the small Kenai LNG plant that now is for sale by ConocoPhillips. The old facility produced the nation's first LNG exports in 1969, providing gas to Japan for decades, but shipments were put on hold in 2016 with low gas prices.
Meyer said money for that acquisition would have to come from a different source, not AGDC's remaining $100 million. AGDC is talking with "third parties" that are also interested in the plant, which could facilitate a separate state goal of carrying liquefied gas from Cook Inlet to Fairbanks to provide low-cost energy to Interior Alaska.
Meyer said the plant could be a "nice little anchor" for the Alaska LNG project, providing additional liquefied natural gas. But it would not replace the primary liquefaction facilities, which would be located nearby.
"It's a means to encourage Cook Inlet production that would give us a nice initial base of operations as we get ready for this bigger facility," he said.