50 years ago Nikiski was a world pioneer in LNG exporting
Fifty years ago this month the very first liquified natural gas tanker from the then-new Phillips Petroleum plant in Nikiski arrived in Tokyo, pioneering a new way to provided fuel for the city’s power plants.
“At one time, it produced 100 percent of the LNG that was imported into Japan,” said former Kenai Mayor John Williams of the Nikiski operatoin. “And it was the only LNG plant in the United States of America that produced LNG at the time.”
John Williams worked on the North Road industrial projects when they were being built before becoming mayor of Kenai city and then borough.
For decades the LNG tankers made constant trips between Nikiski and Tokyo, never missing a delivery.
“What made it very economical and very good on the environment was that the tanker itself actually burned part of the fuel from the load itself to transport back and forth so it didn't have to have extra fuel,” Williams said. “It didn't burn crude oil or anything like that, it burned LNG boil-off from the main cargo.”
The Nikiski LNG plant was mothballed in 2017, and has since changed hands a couple of times, once again becoming owned by Marathon.
As for the future of shipping LNG from Nikiski, Williams says it depends on the world market.
“You know, the world has a plentiful supply of LNG right now,” Williams said. “And that's one of the reasons we're having such a difficult time determining the feasibility of building the gas line because part of the, you know, the building of the gas line includes the major, very large LNG facility and whether or not we can compete in the world market. So it's really tough.”
The 50th anniversary of the first Nikiski LNG delivery to Tokyo was marked on Nov. 6 by representatives from Tokyo Electric Power, ConocoPhillips, Tokyo Gas Co., and was attended by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy.