Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is backing an in-state natural-gas pipeline to serve urban centers. Her plan envisions linking the in-state line with a proposed pipeline that would carry gas from the North Slope to Alberta and beyond, but details remain to be worked out on funding, operating structure and gas sources.

On July 7, Palin announced support for a venture between Anchorage-based utility Enstar Natural Gas Co. and the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority (ANGDA) to build a 20-in. line up to 790 miles with a daily volume of 460 million cu ft of gas.

Estimates for an in-state line run to $3.3 billion, but finding Cook Inlet gas will be the key.

Construction is expected to begin by 2011, with gas flowing by 2013. Officials have not disclosed costs, but previous estimates have run about $3.3 billion for an in-state line.

ANGDA, Anchorage, is a public corporation whose mission includes building a spur line to serve the Southcentral area, which is home to a majority of the population. It has been working with Enstar on a concept. “We’ve been trying to negotiate contracts, and we can’t get supplies beyond five years because of the uncertainty of gas availability in the Cook Inlet,” says Enstar Spokesman Curtis Thayer.

A $5-million study by Michael Baker Corp., Moon Township, Pa., and ASRC Energy Services, Anchorage, will help determine the project's operational and financial details, Thayer says. Fieldwork would begin next spring, followed by engineering and permitting work.

The project’s route depends on the availability of gas. Palin says she hopes an in-state line will encourage more exploration in Cook Inlet. The plan she backs envisions a first phase taking off from the Cook Inlet gas fields to Fairbanks in interior Alaska.