Alaska’s first commercial natural gas storage project is now humming.
By the time project managers with Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage Alaska cut the ribbon on the new Kenai facility, Thursday morning, nearby compressors were already pressurizing Cook Inlet gas, forcing it into a depleted gas reservoir a mile underground.
The natural tank can hold 11 billion cubic feet of gas and will serve as a buffer to get Southcentral energy users through periods when utilities come close to using all of the gas that’s available to them.
“The purpose of this facility is to balance supply and demand,” said Ed Scarpace, CINGSA project manager.
The concern in recent years has been those very cold winter days when customers crank up the heat and gas demand can be as high as 12 times what it is in the summer.
“If there were a line hit or a major issue with one of our lines we could quickly withdraw from this facility,” said Colleen Starring, Enstar president.
But Starring warns, the storage facility is only a temporary fix -- a good first step toward fixing some of Southcentral Alaska’s energy problems.
Cook Inlet gas production is not what it once was and utilities still don't have a long-term stable supply.
“We need more producers in the mix and we need commitments for a longer period of time,” said Starring.
For now, though, they celebrate the project's completion ahead of schedule, and at $161.4 million dollars, under budget.
The facility is a first for Alaska, known not for what it's taking out of the ground, but what it's putting back in.
Email Ted Land