The Kenai LNG Plant, located in Nikiski on the Kenai Peninsula, was the world’s largest plant when built, and the first to serve the Asia-Pacific market. Nearly all LNG produced at the plant has been sold via contracts with two Japanese utilities.
The development of the LNG technology coincided with the growth of the oil and gas industry in Alaska. Until the 1950s, oil companies hesitated to explore in Alaska because of the territory’s distance from major markets. Major gas discoveries in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the Cook Inlet Area of Alaska, coupled with a lack of local demand for the product, led Phillips Petroleum (ConocoPhillips’ predecessor) and partner companies to consider international LNG projects. Fortunately, Japan was well located to Alaska and just beginning to consider the value of LNG in helping to reduce Japan’s air pollution problems while providing needed energy.
The Kenai LNG Plant complex includes docking and loading facilities to transport LNG, which is carried to customers by tanker. Owned by Conoco Phillips, the plant is currently the only commercial exporter of LNG from the United States and has shipped the product primarily to Japan – more than 1,300 loads – safely for the past four-plus decades.
On March 31, 2013 the Kenai LNG Plant export license expired. Due to a change in market conditions, including additional gas supplies in the Basin, and with the encouragement of various stakeholders, ConocoPhillips Alaska pursued a new license which was granted on April 14, 2014. The authorization from the United States Department of Energy allows export of the equivalent of 40 BCF of LNG over a two-year period.