ConocoPhillips authorized to resume natural gas exports in Alaska

Energy giant ConocoPhillips Co. has received approval from the Department of Energy to resume exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) from its Kenai, Alaska, facility, and plans to start exporting this spring.

ConocoPhillips had shut down its Kenai export terminal in February 2011, citing market conditions. It had exported LNG from the facility for decades.

Alaska state officials asked the company to resume exports last year, leading to the Monday approval from the Energy Department to export to countries with which the United States does not have a free-trade agreement. It attained an export license for free-trade agreement countries in February.

Alaska’s LNG export terminals undergo a different permitting process than ones the contiguous United States. For those states, the Department of Energy has given conditional approval to seven terminals, but no LNG terminals are currently exporting.

“ConocoPhillips had previously said that it would consider pursuing a new export authorization if local Cook Inlet area gas needs were met and there was sufficient gas available for export,” the company said Monday.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) applauded DOE's decision.

“I’m glad ConocoPhillips will be able to add to Alaska’s 40-year history of supplying natural gas to Japan,” Murkowski said in a statement. “Today’s announcement by DOE also highlights the growth that’s occurring in Cook Inlet, where there is now ample gas supply to both meet local needs and help out our friends overseas.”

ConocoPhillips has committed to prioritizing local natural gas needs above exporting.

The Kenai plant’s export license allows it to export 40 billion cubic feet of LNG in a two-year period, or about 55 million cubic feet per day. That is much smaller than any of the facilities in the lower 48 states that Energy has approved.