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Questioning the direction of the Interior Gas Utility

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FAIRBANKS — Not many of us are fully aware of all the discussions and developments that have gone on with the Interior Gas Utility. This is a public entity that was created to bring gas to the Interior from the Cook Inlet area, transporting it here for storage and distribution. Recently it has come to our attention that Siemens Corp., a division of which is focused on development of small natural gas production facilities and distribution, has some good suggestions and proposed solutions for our utility, which could meet many of its goals. These include:

• Delivering on the original intent to lower the cost of natural gas to $15 per million British Thermal Units.

• Reducing the PM 2.5 emissions, improve air quality and meet EPA mandates, lowering the negative impact on health and our economy.

Siemens offers a secure, utility-grade service and provision of gas to the Interior, something which still remains uncertain about the Titan project that the IGU now owns. Finally, its promised development could bring the gas to market as early as December 2019

All these details were clearly and persuasively presented to 15 to 20 local Fairbanksans on July 17 at a presentation by the Siemens group. Their team consisted of three professional Siemens engineers as well as a representative from their partnering Native Corporation, Kniktnu Inc., which has the land that they would use to build their operation upon.

The list of advantages of the Siemens’ proposal is impressive. They would increase reliability through redundancy of production and by not relying on a single facility. They promise to be operational by December 2019 (given a start soon), they can achieve the House Bill 105 goals and reduce the PM 2.5 emissions in our air, their system is expandable to meet future demand, and perhaps most important of all, they will finance this privately and eliminate the need for bonding by the IGU utility. For transportation they intend to securely and cost-effectively deliver the LNG via the railroad.

With all these advantages on the table and the economic arguments being quite a good prospect, perhaps even better than the present plan of the IGU and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. It’s rather puzzling that the IGU board hasn’t been willing to hear more from Siemens. A comparative meeting for the public was arranged to compare the Siemens proposal to the existing IGU/Titan proposal that the Corporation now seems locked into. Rather than have this comparison open to the public and scrutinized, the IGU board and leadership declined to have such a meeting (July 17), and therefore the meeting proceeded without any IGU participation.

This is all quite confounding. Siemens has a detailed and quite credible proposal which meets all our needs; better in our opinion, than the existing plan from IGU.

We wanted to put this before the public because there are important questions about the feasibility, economic soundness and whether the present IGU plan meets our needs with a utility grade system which is affordable, economic and would be available fast enough to really help.

Yet a credible proposal from Siemens, which would eliminate the bonding requirement and deliver the needed gas at a better price in a more timely fashion has not been given a hearing. 

Something is troubling with this picture, and we’d like more investigation by the press and by the public of the situation.

Karl Monetti lives in Fairbanks. He wrote this on behalf of the following people who also signed the community perspective:  Liz Grieg, Gerald Goodman, Karl Hough, Mary Ann Nickles, Owen Hanley, Don Callahan, Paolo Greer, Greg Hill, David Weissman, Mike Musick, John Davies, Dave Nebert, Larry Fogleson, Carl Benson, Richard Seifert, Connie Huffman and Frank Gold.

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