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Enormous gap between natural gas and diesel prices spurs new North Slope plan

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Posted: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 8:21 am | Updated: 1:58 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

In the past year in Alaska natural gas has sold for as low as $2 for a million BTUs, while diesel fuel on the North Slope has sold for more than $5 a gallon, the equivalent of more than $40 per million BTUs.

The difference between those numbers, drawn from reports filed with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, underlies the plans by Ray Latchem, Jeff Helmericks and Mark Ploen of Spectrum for a project to develop a new fuel source on the North Slope. They want to supply liquefied natural gas from their plant, one which they say could be expanded to  supply GVEA and other Fairbanks users.

But it starts with switching from diesel to LNG for industrial operations on the North Slope.

The Spectrum plan is one of a few competing ideas now under discussion to develop LNG, along with those by GVEA and Fairbanks Natural Gas.

Latchem has said that his project is aimed at supplying "drilling rigs, heavy trucks, mines, power plants and any other diesel users that want to save a lot of money."

With low natural gas prices and high crude oil prices, there is an opportunity.

"A $38 per million BTU price differential is very attractive to a team of investors that have vision, an established track record developing LNG plants and associated pipelines and a long history and knowledge of operating in Alaska," Spectrum says in an RCA filing seeking state approval.

The plan by Spectrum LLC for a plant to convert natural gas into a diesel fuel substitute is pending before the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.

Spectrum is seeking approval for a pipeline of 1,100 feet that would cost less than $1 million.

Latchem built the Deadhorse natural gas system and established Fairbanks Natural Gas and its Point McKenzie liquefaction facility.


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