Alaska buys out company’s interest in gas pipeline project

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015 10:48pm
  • News

JUNEAU — Gov. Bill Walker announced Tuesday the completion of the state’s acquisition of TransCanada Corp.’s interest in a major gas project Alaska is pursuing, calling it an historic day.

“By gaining an equal seat at the negotiating table, we are taking control of our destiny and making significant progress in our effort to deliver Alaska gas to the global market,” Walker said in a news release.

The Legislature, meeting in a special session earlier this month, approved funding for the state to take a greater stake in the project and buy out the Canadian pipeline company’s interest. The Walker administration argued that a buyout would increase the state’s voting rights and allow the state to have a more direct say in the project’s decision-making process.

Under an agreement that predated Walker’s term, TransCanada held the state’s interest in the pipeline and gas treatment plant. The state was obligated to pay the company for costs it put into the project on the state’s behalf, plus about 7 percent interest. In terminating that arrangement and buying out TransCanada, the state paid about $64.6 million, the release said.

TransCanada transferred its interests to the state-sanctioned Alaska Gasline Development Corp., or AGDC, which also holds the state’s interest in liquefaction facilities.

The estimated closing cost was based on information known as of Nov. 17. TransCanada will provide a final cost report, and the state will conduct a follow-up review that could result in an additional payment to TransCanada or money being refunded to the state, according to an email from Elizabeth Bluemink, communications coordinator for the state Department of Natural Resources.

The Legislature authorized funding for the amount needed for the buyout, which had been estimated at around $68.5 million.

TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said by email that the company has been committed to the development of natural gas resources in Alaska for decades and has made considerable contributions to the advancement of the liquefied natural gas project being pursued currently. “While our role in this project has concluded, we will continue to watch its progress closely,” he wrote.

Alaska is pursuing the project with BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp. There is no guarantee that it will be built, though many see it as key to Alaska’s financial future.

The partners are expected to vote Dec. 4 on a work plan and budget for 2016. By that date, Walker also is hoping to receive assurances from the partners that they would not be able to block the project from advancing if they withdrew.

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