UPDATE 2-TransCanada has attracted no Alaska gas shippers

Tue Aug 16, 2011 7:03pm EDT

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ANCHORAGE, Aug 16 (Reuters) - TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO) has no firm commitments to ship gas on its proposed $40 billion pipeline from Alaska's North Slope, despite 12 months of negotiations and the demise of a rival project, an executive with the company said on Tuesday.

The company is still in talks with potential shippers for its long-delayed Alaska pipeline, and they include all of the major North Slope producers, TransCanada vice-president Tony Palmer told a state legislative committee on Tuesday.

"If customers are out there today who want to make a late bid and sign contracts with us, we're open to reviewing that," Palmer said.

He reiterated the company's offer of equity stakes in the development to other firms.

Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) is currently TransCanada's partner in the Alaska pipeline project, which under the main plan would ship 4.5 billion cubic feet a day of gas to the Alberta border from the North Slope. A second option would move supplies to Valdez, Alaska, where they would be liquefied and shipped on tankers.

A 90-day "open season" -- essentially an invitation for commitments to ship gas on the pipeline -- ended July 30, 2010.

The company has said the results were inconclusive, and it was in talks with potential shippers to try to come to terms as the economics of Arctic gas were pressured by weak prices and the development of shale gas projects closer to major U.S. markets.

Palmer said the project is on schedule in its technical development and its reparation for permitting, which anticipates Federal Energy Regulatory Commission certification in 2014.

"But our commercial timeline is behind schedule, absolutely, primarily because of factors out of our control," he told the committee.

He said one sticking point for garnering shipping commitments has been a legal dispute between Exxon Mobil and the state over developing the Point Thomson field on the North Slope, gas from which feeds the pipeline.

Alaska Natural Resource Commissioner Dan Sullivan told lawmakers Monday that the state and Exxon Mobil and Alaska had reached a tentative settlement over the company's development of Point Thomson. [ID:nN1E77F055]

"That's highly positive for our project because we need Point Thomson gas to make this project viable," Palmer said.

In May, BP Plc (BP.L) and ConocoPhillips (COP.N), the two other major oil producers on the North Slope, dropped their rival $35 billion Denali pipeline plan, blaming the weak gas markets and competition from shale supplies.

BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil hold the leases to most of the known North Slope natural gas reserves, totaling about 35 trillion cubic feet.

TransCanada has had the backing of the state under legislation aimed at kick-starting the project that was developed under former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

The state legislation entitles TransCanada and Exxon to as much as $500 million in state subsidies.

So far, Palmer said, the companies have spent $288 million, of which $94 million has been reimbursed by the state. Even if the result is a project lacking commitments from shippers, TransCanada and Exxon expect to spend $700 million, of which $500 million would come from the state, he said. (Reporting by Yereth Rosen, writing by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Bill Rigby, Rob Wilson, Bob Burgdorfer)

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