One of Alaska’s long-proposed mega-projects -- an all-Alaska natural gas pipeline -- got the green light Thursday afternoon, with Gov. Sean Parnell signing Senate Bill 138 into law.

While Thursday’s ceremony establishes the framework for the project, with an estimated cost of  $40 billion to $60 billion, state officials don’t expect dirt to be turned on it for another four or five years.

Earlier in May, Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash said crews will begin surveying Interior Alaska areas through which the pipeline will run.

The ultimate goal is to provide natural gas to Alaskans and export the surplus gas to markets abroad.

Less than two weeks after the state Legislature’s 2014 adjournment, Parnell wasted no time kick-starting what will be one of the largest projects in the world -- a natural gas pipeline spanning 800 miles from the North Slope to the Kenai Peninsula.

Officials say at peak construction, the liquefied natural gas line is expected to create 15,000 jobs in the Last Frontier.

A smaller construction project at the University of Alaska Anchorage, its new engineering building on campus, is about a year away from completion. UAA is making room for the rapid expansion of its program, since future graduates could find work on the new LNG project.

"A gas line would be largely a civil engineering project that would connect elements of mechanical engineering, and computer systems engineering, and computer science, all of which we teach here," said Bart Quimby, associate dean of UAA’s College of Engineering.

The first stage of the project is the pre-design and engineering phase.
Quimby says UAA’s existing engineering building is way below the national average for instructional space per student. With the LNG project now under way, the timing of the new facility couldn't be better.

"Our graduates, when they graduate, are being hired about as fast as we can produce them by the companies that will be working on this project, particularly on the design side at this point," Quimby said.

Many state and academic leaders hope this effort to establish to establish an LNG pipeline will succeed where previous attempts have failed.
The Alaska Gasline Development Corp. will supervise the design and construction of the line.

ExxonMobil, TransCanada, BP and ConocoPhillips will all own a share of the line, with gas not expected to flow through it until at least 2024.