- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - State officials have picked a global infrastructure development company as its preferred contractor to build and operate a North Slope liquefied natural gas plant that could provide gas to Interior Alaska customers.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority on Tuesday unanimously picked MWH Americas Inc. as its top choice, citing financial assets the multinational company brings to the table, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (https://bit.ly/1gLAXrz) reported.

More investment by the contractor allows a larger share of a state financial support package to be used to build infrastructure in Fairbanks, said AIDEA consultant Mark Gardiner.

“The financial viability of the North Slope plant depends on the build-out of the Fairbanks North Star Borough distribution system and the conversion rate,” he said. “The highest amount of funds left for distribution is generated by the MWH proposal.”

Ranked behind MWH were Pentex, which is affiliated with Fairbanks Natural Gas, a company currently selling gas to 1,100 Fairbanks customers, and Spectrum LNG.

Natural gas is projected to cut home heating costs by half in Fairbanks and to address the area’s air quality issues. Fairbanks regularly violates federal air quality standards for particulates. Wood stoves used by people trying to cut down on their fuel oil bills contribute to the problem.

A bill signed last year by Gov. Sean Parnell launched the Interior Energy Project. The measure called for a private-public partnership to deliver liquefied natural gas to the Interior through grants, low-interest loans and bonds. The project also includes money for re-gasification, storage and distribution in Fairbanks.

The proposal by MWH, Gardiner said, provided the most efficient use of public dollars and could move gas south in the shortest amount of time.

MWH offered $82.5 million in private investor equity, leaving more state assistance for the distribution system in Fairbanks, Gardiner said.

MWH proposed a plant with a capacity of 9 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas per year.

AIDEA board member Gary Wilken, a former Fairbanks state senator, said MWH’s considerable investment was compelling.

The project is not a done deal. AIDEA and MWH will negotiate details of a contract and determine whether the plant and trucking gas to Fairbanks makes economic sense. The board will consider a final project in May.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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