State gasline corporation quietly opens office in Tokyo

Chief Oil & Gas Advisor John Hendrix, Alaska Gasline Development Corporation President Keith Meyer, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack gave a press conference on Friday Sept. 30, 2016 to discuss their meetings with potential Asian markets for Alaska's LNG in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney)

Chief Oil & Gas Advisor John Hendrix, Alaska Gasline Development Corporation President Keith Meyer, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack gave a news conference on Friday Sept. 30, 2016, to discuss their meetings with potential Asian markets for Alaska’s LNG in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Updated | 5:20 p.m.

Last weekend, the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation announced that it had opened a new office in Japan. But, it only made the announcement in Japan. Now, one lawmaker is questioning how the agency is spending its money, and why.

The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) hired Nick Shiratori. He’s a former employee of Mitsubishi-subsidiary Diamond Gas Shipping and he’s been marketing the oil and gas industry since 1979. But, they didn’t announce the new office or Shiratori’s appointment in Alaska.  

Grace Jang is a spokesperson for Gov. Bill Walker’s office.

“Let me start off by saying, this is not a new office,” Jang said. “The state of Alaska, for 36 years, has had a representative in Japan.”

She said that the Governor’s office has paid for a consultant in Japan for decades.

What has changed is that the $130,000 budgeted through June for Shiratori’s position and his $5,300 per month Tokyo office space will be paid for by the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation.

Corporation spokesperson Rosetta Alcantra said Shiratori will be doing a mix of marketing and communication for the corporation.

“Mr. Shiratori has over 37 years of experience in the oil and gas industry. Certainly that comes with a large network of folks that he has contact with and so we’re hoping that he can help provide that connection for us,” Alcantra said. 

The AGDC is tasked with managing Alaska’s gasline projects. Among them, is the massive Alaska LNG project that’s expected to cost $45-65 billion to build.  It would include an 800-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from the North Slope to Cook Inlet where it could be compressed into a liquid form and shipped to buyers.

But, the corporation hasn’t yet taken control of the project and is still negotiating with its former partners —  BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon — over a federal export permit and control of the land needed to build the project.

Lawmakers had mixed responses to news of the office in Japan.  Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, said he sees it  as an asset to the state.

“I certainly think in the international markets where our products play, you have to have a presence,” he said.

The Fairbanks Democrat said the state has had offices and consultants in Asian countries for decades and that they play important roles in marketing natural resources.

But Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, said she thinks the corporation is misspending the money the legislature appropriated to it.

“We have no information about this Japanese office,” she said. “At the same time we’re here in Juneau, wondering how we’re going to balance the budget, considering taxing citizens, reducing education funding, dealing with healthcare costs. And $100 million is sitting in the treasury of the AGDC and we don’t know what it’s being used for. So there is huge, there is huge concern.” 

Giessel also said the corporation was not transparent in its decision to open the new office. She chairs the Senate Resources committee and says she attends most of the corporation’s board meetings.

Unlike the board’s much-publicized decision to open a satellite office in Houston last year, the Tokyo office didn’t get any public attention.

Representatives from the gasline corporation are due in front of Giessel’s committee next week. She said there will be plenty of questions about how it spends its money.

Original story | 11 a.m. Thursday

The state gasline corporation has opened a satellite office in Tokyo.

State officials and the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation have been working to market the state’s natural gas reserves to Asian markets.

Masatoshi Nick Shiratori confirmed by phone late Wednesday evening that he is running the new office in Japan.

Shiratori previously worked at Mitsubishi subsidiary Diamond Gas Shipping before he joined the state’s gasline team.

A spokesperson for the corporation confirmed this morning that the office is open. But, they have not yet announced it publicly.

Alaska’s gasline corporation is tasked with managing the massive Alaska LNG project that is expected to cost $45 billion to $65 billion to build. It’s still negotiating with ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips to take over the project.

In its current form, the LNG project would include an 800-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from the North Slope to Cook Inlet.

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