Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Alaska, Gazprom, and Palin

As reported here last June, Gazprom has been showing interest in developing Alaskan energy projects. Further proof continues to emerge with the report of Gazprom executives reported to be in talks with Alaskan officials as well as other multinationals with interests in the area. The International Herald Tribune reports that even while Sarah Palin continues her ill-informed ramblings about Russia and Putin talks are going on:

"MOSCOW: Gazprom, the biggest Russian energy company, offered to help Alaska increase natural gas supplies to the U.S. mainland, even after Governor Sarah Palin warned against Russian resurgence while campaigning for vice president.

The Russian state-run natural gas company sent eight senior executives to Anchorage for talks Monday with officials from the state Department of Natural Resources and with the ConocoPhillips chief executive, Jim Mulva, state and company officials said.

Gazprom, which supplies a quarter of the natural gas used by Europe, is seeking to increase its reach with projects around the world, including in North America. The courtship of Alaska comes less than a month after Palin criticized Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for "rearing his head" regarding the Russian maritime border with her state.

"The timing is as interesting as the visit itself," said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at UralSib Financial in Moscow. "Gazprom's entire senior management goes into Sarah Palin's backyard during a contentious election. There's a message there."

The Gazprom chief executive, Aleksei Miller, was accompanied by his deputies Valery Golubev, who served alongside Putin in the KGB, and Alexander Medvedev, who oversees Russian exports of natural gas. Gazprom said its executives had held a working breakfast with Walter Hickel, a former governor of Alaska and a supporter of Palin....Miller said in June that Gazprom had approached ConocoPhillips and BP on joining their Denali pipeline project, designed to deliver Alaskan natural gas to the Continental United States. At the same time, Gazprom expressed interest in a rival pipeline project backed by TransCanada.

Gazprom did not specifically discuss pipeline projects during the meeting with Alaskan officials, said Marty Rutherford, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources.

"They were talking very generically," she said. "They would love to partner with us and other firms."

Talks with Conoco, which is based in Houston, focused on "broad-based business opportunities," a company spokesman, Charlie Rowton, said."

The fact that this may actually be serious is supported by the involvement of Eni, an Italian energy firm with close connections to Gazprom as evidenced by developments reported in the Petroleum News and other places:

"Eni and Gazprom have agreed to sign a new binding document by the end of October 2008 relating to the development of the Artic Gas assets that Eni acquired in 2007.

In particular the agreement will relate to the development plan as well as the offtake and transportation of the gas from Artic Gas.

The agreement to be signed will enable Gazprom to enter the Libian upstream. Eni and Gazprom also reviewed the progress made on South Stream."

"Eni Petroleum recently secured its first drilling permits for the Nikaitchuq offshore unit in the Beaufort Sea. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission issued permits for a development well and service well, both located at Oliktok Point.

The Italian major sanctioned the $1.45 billion project this past January, laying out a plan for drilling around 80 wells from a combination of onshore and offshore pads. The company also plans to build independent processing facilities to support the unit."

You do have to wonder if Govenor Palin even has a clue about any of these goings ons even as she's touted as an energy expert.Suspect the truth may lie a little closer to these observations made at MSNBC:

"The Alaska governor, whom McCain cited as probably knowing more about energy than anyone in this country, "seemed to have problems Thursday explaining whether the government bans oil exports -- especially from her state's North Slope fields…. No Alaska oil has been exported since 2004, and little if any since 2000, according to the Energy Information Administration and the Congressional Research Service. And Congress has never imposed outright bans on oil exports. Congress prohibited exports of Alaska oil in 1973 when the Alaska oil pipeline was built. But that ban was lifted in 1996 when there were large volumes of Alaska oil coming down from the North Slope and U.S. demand was soft. The Alaska ban has never been reinstated."

The Washington Post delves into Palin's calendar as governor for the last two years, and it finds that this last 12 months, she was a lot busier boosting her own PR than in the first 12 months. "During her first months in office, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin kept a relatively light schedule on her workdays in Juneau, making ceremonial appearances at sports events and funerals, meeting with state lawmakers, and conducting interviews with Alaska magazines, radio stations and newspapers.”

“But this spring, Palin's official calendar chronicles an extraordinary rise to national prominence. A fresh face in Republican politics, she was discovered by the national news media at least in part because of a determined effort by a state agency to position her as an oil and gas expert who could tout Alaska's determined effort to construct a natural gas pipeline. An outside public relations expert hired under a $31,000 contract with the state Department of Natural Resources pitched the ‘upstart governor’ as a crusader against Big Oil, a story line that Palin has adopted in her campaign as Sen. John McCain's running mate. The contract was the only time the Palin administration hired an outside consultant to set up media interviews, a function performed in many states by government employees."

Out of touch and out of the loop and in a worst case scenario our next President?

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