ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CN) - Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said Thursday his state extended its cooperation agreement with Japan-based consortium Resources Energy to develop natural gas fields in Cook Inlet.
The state signed the original memorandum of agreement in September 2014. The extension with the Japanese consortium runs through 2017 and encourages the development of Cook Inlet natural gas to provide Alaskans with low-cost energy while also supplying Japanese consumers.
Walker's announcement comes three months after he met with more than 25 companies and government agencies, including the prefectures of Kyoto and Hyogo, during an international liquefied natural gas conference in Tokyo where he told more than 1,000 attendees of Alaska's gas opportunities.
"The world market will certainly benefit from Alaska's rich natural gas reserves, but my number one priority is ensuring that we work toward affordable energy for Alaskan families and businesses," Walker said. "Extending this agreement shows Japanese consumers that Alaska is committed to exporting liquefied natural gas."
Cook Inlet development opens the door for the market to access Alaska's liquefied natural gas supply while what has long been referred to as the Alaska LNG project is underway. Walker had made the development of liquefied natural gas a priority long before he was elected to the state's top office.
Prior to his election Walker served as general counsel for the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, organizing several conferences and meetings with the lower 48 states, Hawaii and internationally to convince state leaders and the big oil companies to be more proactive in developing this resource.
"The proposed development of Cook Inlet natural gas would benefit Alaskans by providing a strong domestic source of energy and creating sustainable economic development in the region," the memorandum states.
In 2012, Japan became the second-largest importer of fossil fuels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Japan's energy mix shifted to oil and natural gas after suspending operations at all of its nuclear power plants following a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. Japan has limited natural gas resources and must rely on imports for nearly all of its natural gas needs, an Energy Information Administration report states.
The project, which has a price tag of between $45 and $65 billion, will be developed by Alaska Gasline Development and affiliates of TransCanada, British Petroleum, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.
It would be the largest single investment in Alaska history and has the potential to create up to an estimated 15,000 jobs, an Alaska LNG Project fact sheet states.
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