What is the gas used for?

For over a half century, various entities have been trying to get the abundance of natural gas on the North Slope to market.  There have been pipeline routes mapped and various producers waiting for things to be in line before extracting gas that they have under leased land.  A few years ago Governor Parnell secured tens of millions of dollars to look at compressing the gas and then bringing it to market by truck or train cars.  Governor Walker spent much of his career looking at how to get the infrastructure in place to get it down to where the population is.

There has been a natural gas market in Cook Inlet for years yet with the ease of access and extraction there it has not been cost effective to bring down Slope natural gas.  The gas does have monetary value though, even if it is not being used in turbines for electrical generation or space heating.  It has potential value for the day it can be shipped which is great if there is some sort of storage where it is extracted.  Also, it is useful as a mechanism to gerrymander the oil under the surface and force it to extraction areas.   There is also a range of gas quality, and when treated when it comes out of the ground some of it can be stripped from the other extracted materials and used to run rig area equipment/heaters.

So there are other economic considerations as to how to use the gas, and it will be interesting to see in the next few years what becomes commercially available!  AN——–





National Extension Energy Specialists joint meeting concludes

Tampa Bay was the venue this year for the NEES joint National Sustainability Summit meeting came to a close Friday with Florida taking the lionshare of presentations.  It is always good to see what other Extension agencies are doing around the country.  The turnout was comparatively good compared to the last meeting in Knoxville.   The other important factor in this meeting is that ANREP (Alaska Natural Resources Extension Professionals) has been working along to have a joint meeting with Energy Extension Specialists and now we have completed our first joint venture.

The work in most states by Energy Specialists varies from teaching on energy efficiency, setting up Master Gardener style cohorts for businesses who want to learn more about electricity and of course in the plains states and southern states there is programing for the Agriculture.   Good ideas were floated and it is refreshing once every two years to see what others are up to under the same land grant umbrella.

“Sustainability” was the flavor of the couple days and electric cars, solar farms with growing space under PV panels, as well as  biochar were topics that were shared with a healthy dose of experience!  AN——-




had a strong presence.

What is frontier/homestead energy?

There are general ways to talk about energy. Railbelt energy refers to the types of power on the Alaska road system from Seward to the Northslope. Off-grid in a large sense speaks to not getting power from an electric utility, whether private or a co-op. Remote camp energy speaks of appliances and fuels that are used seasonally for gold camp, fish camp or possibly a hunting cabin for lighting, some heating and cooking. Some of these applications are used in emergency energy where you have a relatively minimal investment in devices that are for a “maybe” situation and tend to be compact, light and durable for cold temperatures (in an Alaskan application).

Frontier or homestead energy refers to devices and fuels that provide for heating, cooking and lighting but also for doing work. So if you know folks who lived “off-grid” but year round at a minimal level (compared to those who have systems where they annually generate electricity from solar, wind or hydro and sell the electricity to the utility whom they are yet hooked up to). This type of energy usually utilizes batteries per energy storage- which has its own complications. Many of the territory days folks (pre-1959) came up with ways to tweek and combine devices so that they could get things done whether in a trappers frontier cabin or on granted homestead land that they have to prove up on to keep the land. Or it could be someone within an hour’s drive out of one of the major cities who lives just a half mile down a road past the last power pole.

Next Monday (4/15) from 4-5:30 at the Tanana Valley Cooperative Extension office (in the old University Park Elementary School Building will be a presentation/discussion of things that can be used with obtainable fuels to get a home lit up, run a water well, provide heating and operate equipment to make washing and planting work easier. If any questions about the workshop give me a ring (322-2309)—-AN—

The gas of it

At a energy luncheon which meets Mondays in Fairbanks, a fellow who follows the energy commodity markets mentioned that as of late the discrepancy between oil and natural gas supplying 1million British Thermal Units (1MBTU).  With the amount of gas at current cost in comparison with the amount of oil that it takes to provide 1MBTU,  the current cost of oil would have to $20 per barrel.  As of today,  oil is almost $68 per barrel, making it over three times as expensive than natural gas for an equivalent amount of BTUs.  Thus there is a downward pressure on oil, and with all the fracking and residual gas getting pulled out of wells in the lower 48 states, gas will remain cheaper for some time I think (compared to its substitute, crude oil in drums).

In some of America’s fields, there is the impetus to flare off the gas and burn it up due to its relative value of the petrol oil at the well head. The United States currently is leading in producing oil and gas with little slow down seen in the near future.   So, with Alaska’s oil production dwindling in the transportation route of the pipeline, would it be worth rebuilding a gas line?  Possibly for export to foreign nations in SE Asia at current prices- but wll Alaska see the profit for as much effort?  This is a good question that will need to be answered at our current level of supply and demand! —–AN

Utilizing biofuels as a replacement for petrol

It has been over a year and a half since Alaska Airlines put up a plane using alternative jet fuel created from corn; the initial travel went cross-country from Seattle to Washington D.C. and Seattle to San Fransisco on another flight. Both flights used 1500 gallons of the biofuel blend. One of the problems with utilizing corn for highway transportation- let along a high octane fuel such as jet fuel- has been the immense amount of water used in the process. Similarly, ethanol production plants in the 1980’s in the midwest were known in places to rapidly drain water tables that were already utilized by agriculture production.

And of course it takes a good amount of irrigation (and petrol for planting and harvest) to grow the feedstock for traditional ethanol, corn. For Alaska Airlines, blending biofuels and petrol into jet fuel are an emission reduction strategy (as they estimate that by replacing a fifth of their fuel supply at Sea-Tac Airport they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 142K tons of carbon dioxide).

As always, the immediate question be when looking at moving beyond a case study is what would the overall additional monetary cost (or possibly cost savings) be when calculating the amount of emissions and monetary costs utilized to grow, harvest and refine whatever feedstock would be transformed into a final fluid product (comparative to the traditional drilling, extraction and refining of petrol). There are other feedstocks that can be used, yet the same questions will need to be carefully answered before private firms fuel up with an abrogated refined energy source that can meet the aviation industry standards. —–AN

Looking at the energy of tomorrow

There has been a bit of talk about the possibility of looking to nuclear power in Alaska, Alaska scale.   “SMR’s” I’ve written on before (Small Modular Reactors) as we have seen an installation in the Interior of the State in the 60’s as well as looking in the 2000’s for Toshiba willing to work with another Interior community.  Both were at military bases (one decommissioned) and thus there were possibilities which civilian community based.

There has been some work recently on determining what scale would be needed for this relatively inexpensive reactor (compared to traditional nuclear power plants) for villages that are now serviced by microgrids.  While some SMR’s can put out 60MW (Anchorage roughly utilizes 160MW) there is hope that they can become smaller, or service regions such as 100 miles out and around Fairbanks.

The main attraction is there is no resource extraction (imported material, yes). There are no ‘moving parts per se to break in the cold.  But the other end that always has to be accounted for is disposal of waste.  And, as everyone is keenly aware, seismic activity is close at hand.  As time goes on and the units are scaled down, who knows?  Alaska may to some degree go nuclear. ——

What will become of nuclear power?

A major shift throughout the world of those countries utilizing renewables was the Fukashima tsunami.  That one even really changed for many nations their paths to get off of fossil fuels.  Laden with taxing/penalty structures per power generation that came largely from EU and Asian nations which were working to reduce carbon emissions, nations such as German and especially France had invested a good share of their power generation to nuclear fission.  When the earthquake and resulting tsunami hit, however, the aftermath took not only Japan (which was almost entirely dependent on dozens and dozens of nuclear plants) down the road of buying LNG and investigating biomass, but it certainly propelled Germany further into its solar investments and France into finding different fuels.


The new generation of interest with nuclear tends to be veering towards SMR Small Modular Reactors.  These units do not depend upon the massive cooling systems and steam units that are a part of normal reactors.  And they may only provide single digit megawatts.  Yet they are safer in a sense as far as shutdown if need be and easy to run site studies on due to a very small footprint, comparatively.  They in fact are called ‘suitcase reactors’ by the public.  Look them up- SMRs.  Possibly it could be a workable technology for smaller communities.

Alaska Health Summit week of workshops!


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Next week several of us in Extension and from Alaska DNR will be in Anchorage  for the annual Alaska Public Health Association events during the day…..yet see if there are workshops suited to you in the evenings!  We’ll kick off the week with a night of Fairbanks workshops and end with similar ones in Nenana:

Jan. 21, Tanana Valley CES office (Art Nash)
4:30pm- Radon: The Radioactive Intruder– Who would think that uranium under the ground would pollute your lungs in your own home?  Learn how radon gas, the second leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking, can be detected and blocked out of your home.
5:30pm- Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer– How can something you can’t see, taste or feel poison your blood in such a short order of time?  Join this discussion on how to check your combustion devices so that you don’t become overwhelmed by this harmful gas.
6:00pm-  Arsenic: Water Poisoning- Did you know pure looking, pristine tasting water can have a toxin that will accumulate in your body? See how you can test your water and investigate ways to filter it out before you ingest it with the water you use for cooking and drinking.
Jan. 22, Anch. CES office (Art Nash)
6:30pm- Healthy Homes Overview-What are some easy ways of reducing contaminants and increasing the energy efficiency and accessibility of your home?  See examples of how you can make your living area more healthy so you stay healthy!
7:30pm- What is All Natural is Not Always Good- How can you avoid environmental dangers in the air or (well) water of your home?  Join this discussion about how often to test your air and water, as well as the costs involved.
8:30- When the Power Goes Out- When you can’t plug in or switch on the electricity due to a power outage, how do you provide for your own temporary lighting, heating and cooking needs? Observe items now on the market that allow you to generate what you need to get you through the day or night until your utility has you up and running!


Jan.23, Anch CES office (Leif Albertson and Art Nash)

6pm-Home Energy Efficiency Audit- How can you reduce your electric bill in the home or or office? Learn methods and cost effective tools that will assist you in simple savings!

7pm- Off Grid Energy Options for Heating, Lighting and Cooking- What types of equipment and fuels are available for taking care of the essentials for an extended stay at your cabin or seasonal camp? Discuss tools that you have used and see various configurations to make your own nanogrid!
8pm- Get the Lead and Radioactivity Out- How can you reduce toxins such as metal exposure in game foods and radon in home environments? See examples of testing for these contaminants and how they unexpectedly can enter your home from the field or from under the house.
Jan. 29, Nenana Center  (Art Nash)
5:00pm- Radon: The Radioactive Intruder– Who would think that uranium under the ground would pollute your lungs in your own home?  Learn how radon gas, the second leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking, can be detected and blocked out of your home.
6:00pm- Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer– How can something you can’t see, taste or feel poison your blood in such a short order of time?  Join this discussion on how to check your combustion devices so that you don’t become overwhelmed by this harmful gas.
6:30pm-  Arsenic: Water Poisoning- Did you know pure looking, pristine tasting water can have a toxin that will accumulate in your body? See how you can test your water and investigate ways to filter it out before you ingest it with the water you use for cooking and drinking.

Fuel for 2019

Fuel prices have been on a decline since this time last year and in fact were driven last month to the lowest average in two years.  In fact, the price of auto fuel has fallen below $2 a gallon in 20% of the states (the overall national average of all 50 states is $2.30).  In Alaska the average cost is just above $3 a gallon. Looking at nationwide averages, fuel oil (#2 grade) is exactly the same cost that it was a decade ago this month.

The outlook for 2019 crude, in general, will depend on global players in the petroleum markets as OPEC and Russia together mentioned that they intend this month or next to cut overall production by one and a fifth billion drums a day to take some of the glut out of the supply market.

It is not only supply that determines price, but we will to see what extent the output of a few nations lifts the price per gallon at the pump in the current conditions in short enough order!

Gasoline prices are dropping- really!

I’ve mentioned before that due to lack of distributor competition, petrol being rather inelastic (demand is ‘stiff’ relative to changes in retail pricing), and Alaskan fuels being imported in set inventory stocks which are pretty well locked into a retail location that ‘prices at the pump’ are not as responsive to price changes in crude oil commodity.  While the price of oil has fallen down to $50 a barrel, Alaskans have seen gas head south of $3/gal on the road system (where it had been steady at around $3.50/gal). Yet in the Gulf states it has dropped below $1.70/gal in some locations.

Though it will not get that low in Alaska, one of the future predictors that crude and subsequent fuel prices will be influenced by the U.S. in the near future is that the U.S. is now the leading exporter of crude.  OPEC is still influential, but possibly not as much as it has been.——-AN————–