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McGuire and Wielchowski Explore Energy Options in South Africa


(ANCHORAGE) - Senator Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage), chair of the Senate Energy Committee and co-chair of the Senate Resources Committee, and Senator Bill Wielchowski (D-Anchorage), co-chair of the Senate Resources Committee, recently attended an intensive course in South Africa that aims to educate public officials, business leaders, researchers and energy developers from around the world on the fundamentals of the XTL industry.  XTL refers to a group of alternative energy fuels that includes gas-to-liquids (GTL), coal-to-liquids (CTL) and biomass-to-liquids (BTL), all three of which have significant potential for development in Alaska.

The four-day course was conducted by the CWC Group, a world-renowned development organization whose mission is to "help energy rich countries diversify their economies and develop new industries."  

Senators McGuire and Wielechowski registered for the course following the October announcement by the Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI) of their plan to develop an underground coal gasification (UCG) project on the west side of Cook Inlet. 

"CIRI's underground coal gasification project is an exciting development for Southcentral Alaska and indeed for the entire state," said McGuire.  "And more exciting yet is the promise for other types of synthetic fuels development in Alaska." 

"CIRI went to South Africa to learn about this new process and to study the new technologies and carbon sequestration methods being employed," added Wielechowski.  "Senator McGuire and I saw this as an opportunity to explore some of the alternate ways Alaska might be able to develop its own vast stores of stranded resources, particularly natural gas and coal." 

The most recent assessments conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey estimate 37.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas on Alaska's North Slope and 5.5 trillion tons of coal resources on the North Slope, Interior, and Cool Inlet regions of Alaska. 

"A North Slope GTL plant able to transform our massive stores of natural gas into value-added synthetic fuels that could be shipped through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System could be key in extending the life of that all-important lifeline of our state's economy," said McGuire, adding that synthetic fuels produced from Cook Inlet coal could also play a role in addressing the issue of dwindling Cook Inlet gas supplies.

GTL and CTL have long been a cornerstone of South Africa's economy, but recent projects in North America - including a coal gasification facility in North Dakota that boasts more carbon sequestration from coal conversion than any other facility in the world and the recently announced development of a coal-to-gasoline plant in Wyoming that is being endorsed by Governor Dave Freudenthal - are demonstrating the viability of these technologies closer to home.  

Senator McGuire and Senator Wielechowski are currently working on a package of state incentives to spur the development of XTLs in Alaska.  They intend to introduce the package prior to the January 19th beginning of the legislative session.

For more information, contact Shalon Szymanski at 907-269-025
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