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Natural Gas Discovery Keeps Port MacKenzie Busy

By Adam Pinsker, Multimedia Political Reporter, apinsker@ktuu.com
Published On: Jul 14 2014 08:00:00 PM AKDT

Hundreds of steel pipes destined for Cook Inlet arrived at the Port of Anchorage earlier this month. Welded end to end, they would equal the distance between Anchorage and Eagle River.

ANCHORAGE -

Hundreds of concrete-coated steel pipes destined for Cook Inlet natural gas work arrived at Port MacKenzie earlier this month. Welded end to end, they would equal the distance between Anchorage and Eagle River.

"We stockpiled about 14 and a half miles of pipe here -- there's almost 2,000 pieces of 40-foot-long pipe,” said Port MacKenzie Director Mark Van Dongen.

Last week the steel pipes, each weighing 10,500 pounds, arrived from South Korea. Workers offloaded them into a yard next to the port, a process that took four days but went faster than expected. Westpac Logistics has been helping with the project.

"It actually went very well; real safe operation," said Westpac employee Charles Grisham. "We had two gantry cranes on board the ship, lifting four pieces of pipe on each crane, setting it onto the deck of a truck."

These pipes won't stay at Port MacKenzie very long. Furie, a Texas-based oilfield services company, is building a drilling platform on Cook Inlet after discovering natural gas in the area. Furie is using the steel to assemble a pipeline from the platform to the liquefied natural gas plant back on shore in Nikiski.

“They'll start transporting the pipes in the middle of August,” Van Dongen said. “Every 36 hours they'll take 60 pieces of pipe.”

This is one of the largest projects handled by Port MacKenzie since it was constructed in the late 1990s. Port officials say this operation is a dry run for larger ventures, such as a potential 800-mile-long natural gas pipeline proposed to be built in Alaska over the next few years.

“We have the space to store the pipe -- a coating plant could be constructed here at the port where they put the final coat on the pipe, the protective coating,” Van Dongen said. “When we complete the rail project we're working on now, the pipe could be loaded on rail.”

Most of the steel pipes should be shipped down to the platform by October. Port officials are working on a permit for construction of a second dock, to make offloads more efficient.