A huge gas discovery in Cook Inlet by Escopeta Oil & Gas could have significant consequences in Anchorage and other Southcentral communities.
3.5 trillion cubic feet of gas -- that's how much Escopeta says it found. It sounds like a lot, but is it?
That amount of gas "based on our average annual usage today, for home heating and power generation, could last approximately 45 years,” said Tony Izzo, an energy consultant, “that's very significant.”
“It's equivalent to the largest gas discovery ever in Cook Inlet, which was the Kenai gas field, discovered in 1959,” said David Hite, a consultant who has studied Cook Inlet for decades.
It’s welcome news for the Southcentral region, which has faced uncertainty about a long-term energy supply.
As recently as last week lawmakers were unveiling more detailed plans for an in-state gasline, to carry North Slope gas to Southcentral Alaska.
That was before Escopeta announced its discovery, which Izzo said “has the potential, if confirmed, to dramatically change the various options that are being vetted today.”
House Speaker Mike Chenault, a backer of the in-state line, says Escopeta's announcement is great news, and that it's tough to say if such new supplies will render his project unnecessary. He says he doesn't think it hurts, at least not right now.
A more immediate impact, assuming all that Cook Inlet gas will make it to market, might be seen on customers' utility bills.
“It could mean even lower prices, should there be that kind of increased volume,” said Izzo.
Analysts say they're cautiously optimistic, because they're waiting for confirmation from more exact test drilling that won't happen until next year.
“I guess the main thing right now is I'm just happy to see somebody that's coming out here and doing this,” said Hite.
In a statement, Bill Barron, Director of the Alaska Division of Oil and Gas said, "Escopeta has made a bold claim which the Division cannot substantiate until significant supporting data is presented and verified."
Escopeta says it'll hand over information in about a month, and that once it does, the state will see for itself that this find is for real.