OPINION: Let’s look at all the available Cook Inlet gas

Gwen Holdmann’s commentary published June 6 in the ADN, “Embarking on a quest for cheap energy,” prompted me to continue delving into the Railbelt electrical system.

As I have mentioned before: Mandating the rate of adopting renewables will not provide cheap energy. It hasn’t worked anywhere else. California doesn’t have cheap energy and they do not have resilience. A plan must be developed. The plan that is developed must be based on study and research into the existing system, the technologies being considered, the impact on the system from “electrifying everything,” where the microgrids should be located within the system, and what will be the base source of power that is not variable and that will replace natural gas, coal or another fuel source.

Some of that planning needs to be done now, concerning the anticipated end of Cook Inlet natural gas. While Cook Inlet natural gas is currently in limited supply, there are yet undeveloped natural gas supplies that can be developed to ensure cheap energy until the day the new source is commissioned.

Hilcorp has announced that they intend to invest in additional natural gas wells. Indications are that this may not be enough. Permitting and funding of fossil fuel projects is currently being fought by many who do not fully understand energy, the economics of energy or the full benefit to humanity that abundant and cheap energy provides. Kay Cashman, in Petroleum News on Aug. 7 2022, wrote about Furie Operating Alaska LLC, the only Alaska-owned natural gas production company, and the significant increase in property tax on Furie’s properties. It is in the best interest of the Alaska citizens to support the efforts to unlock the necessary stores of natural gas.

It is therefore in the best interest of the state and all those involved in the Alaska Utilities Working Group to include Furie and its owner in the ongoing discussions about the future of natural gas in Cook Inlet. The maximum benefit of Furie’s natural gas would be as fuel for use at the utilities anchored here in Cook Inlet — cheap fuel that would benefit most, if not all Alaskans. The benefit to the state from taxes and fees is far below the benefit afforded by cheap energy. This is the same cheap energy Gwen Holdmann is looking for. This same cheap energy can used to develop and install the renewable energy sources that might one day replace Cook Inlet natural gas.

Other recent news that might be favorable to finding another long term, cheap energy source is the planned geothermal lease sale near Mount Spurr. It would be fantastic of if the result was development of 800 megawatts or more of geothermal power. A large geothermal energy source would provide a stable base power source that would work well with the variable renewable power sources which can be spread around the Railbelt to help develop microgrids through the Railbelt utilities. So let’s get enough Cook Inlet Natural gas to give us time to develop a geothermal power source base.

Robert Seitz, PE, is an electrical engineer and lifelong Alaskan.

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