SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Powering Pebble


November 07, 2010
Sunday PM

Mining projects need huge amounts of fuel and electricity to power their operations. In remote Alaska, where do they get it?

The House Special Committee on Energy met recently to learn about the energy needs for five proposed mines in Alaska, including two at the forefront for fishing interests: Pebble and Chuitna.  

The energy needs for the proposed gold and copper Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay haven’t been determined because the project is “not even in the pre-feasibility stage, but they will be significant,” said John Shively, CEO of the Pebble Partnership.  Past power estimates have ranged between 250 – 500 megawatts at peak usage.  

As a comparison, 40 megawatts is enough to power 40,000 US homes, not counting things like street lights, stores, etc.

Diesel would fuel vehicles at the Pebble site, and some power might be generated by wind. Over all, Shively said, natural gas is the preferred fuel choice for powering the vast Pebble mine.

 “Our preference is natural gas at the site, which means we would have a pipeline along the road corridor. The reason for that is we get a benefit from waste heat,” he said.

The challenge is where to get it.  

Shively said the project would likely import liquefied natural gas either to a new port area it would build, or perhaps use the Nikiski facility to import the gas.

“If that were true, we might use that and pipe the gas across the inlet and up to the Pebble mine,” he said.  

 Shively stressed that “energy and infrastructure are linked together” and the Pebble project could play a role in the “economics” of other extraction ventures.

“We could play a role in the economics of either the bullet line or a spur line if the large gas line is built,” he said. “We also could affect the economics of deeper drilling in Cook Inlet which currently is more expensive and at this point is not taking place.”

Powering Pebble could get an assist from the Chuitna coal project being proposed at Cook Inlet across from Anchorage, which includes building a large port for deep draft ships.

“We would build a road to that port and along it would be a diesel line and a number of things,” Shively said.

The Chuitna coal mine, proposed by Delaware-based PacRim Coal, has filed for permits covering 10,000 acres on Kenai Peninsula Borough lands. PacRim plans to strip 300 million tons of coal from the region over 25 years for export to Asia.   

 “We believe our project is worthy is because we are a resource development state and we think it is a great opportunity to monetize that resources, create jobs and business opportunities in the state,” said project manager Dan Graham. “And we have taken great care to design the project in such a way that we can also protect the environment.”

Graham said a large camp will be built to house mine workers.  The coal would be crushed at the mine site and transported on a 12 mile conveyor belt to a shore side storage facility.

“We are proposing a unique overland conveyor system that is a minimum of 20 feet off the ground to prevent it from being a barrier to wildlife and recreation users in the area,” Graham said. A dock extending two-miles into the Inlet would shuttle the coal onto 1,200 foot freighters, all bound for Asia.

The Chuitna coal project initially will use 10 megawatts of power at peak loads, and 17-20 megawatts at full operation. Graham said power will come from an existing line that Chugach Electric operates that runs right through the port site.

“We will install portable generators for the construction phase till the permanent power can be brought in from the port site,” Graham said.

“Once we get near the end of construction, we are only six miles from the Beluga power station and we have been in discussions about using that as a generating source.”  

Graham said PacRim Coal anticipates a permitting decision by the state within 18 months to two years.  “At that point, depending on what those decisions are and what the market conditions are at the time,” he said, “we will be at a point to make a construction decision.”   

Expo and Energy

Pacific Marine Expo, now in its 44th year, is a favorite of Alaska’s fishing industry.  Despite the economic downturn, the show continues to grow, said coordinator Bob Callahan.

“Trade shows are doing very well these days. It’s all about the face to face interaction and building relationships,” he said.

“This year we have 415 companies taking 57,000 square feet of space, compared to 375 companies and 53,000 feet of space last year,” Callahan added.

The Seattle Expo is one of 90 events put on around the world by Maine-based Diversified Business Communications. Highlights this year include the Hillstrand brothers talking about taking the Bering Sea crabber Time Bandit “green.” Also:  a movie premier of Lessons from the Galaxy, Tragedy and Courage on the Bering Sea - a first person account proving that safety training saves lives.

“It will make a crew sit up and take notice,” Callahan said.

Expo expects to attract more than 10,000 attendees to the Qwest Center in Seattle, November 18-20.

Also check out the agenda for the Energy and Fisheries Conference the few days before.  http://www.energyfish.nmfs.noaa.go


This weekly column focusing on Alaska's seafood industry began in 1991, and it now appears in over 20 newspapers and web sites. A spin off - Fish Radio - airs weekdays on 30 radio stations in Alaska. The goal of both is to make all people aware of the economic and social importance of Alaska's fishing industry to our state, the nation and the world. Happy New Year and thanks for your continued support of fishing news!

Laine can be reached at msfish[AT]
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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska


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