Economy

TransCanada to take bids for Alaska gas pipeline

The market will speak today and say whether TransCanada Corp. has enough likely customers to justify building a multibillion-dollar natural gas pipeline from Alaska's North Slope to Canada or Valdez.

At 2 p.m. Alaska time, TransCanada's 90-day "open season" will conclude and a company official in Houston will begin opening bids for space in the proposed 48-inch diameter line -- assuming any bids arrive.

If they do, their contents will remain trade secrets for at least five months, if not forever. But within an hour or so after the bids are read, TransCanada's vice president for the Alaska project, Tony Palmer, plans to give a brief statement to reporters.

Palmer has cautioned Alaskans to not expect much information for the time being. Most likely, he said, he will not give any firm indication about whether there's a TransCanada pipeline in Alaska's future. If no bids are received, Palmer said, he will report that fact.

A gas pipeline has long been seen as muscular engine for Alaska's future economy, but for 40 years the cons of construction have outweighed the pros, leaving huge reserves of natural gas in the ground.

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