Gas industry heating up in Western Territories
Development could have huge economic impact

by Mark Sproxton
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 18/96) - Natural gas could one day have a significant presence in the Western Arctic if current plans and project span out.

In the Inuvik area, the Inuvialuit Petroleum Corporation will spend $1.5 million early next year to test the reserves of a gas deposit 48 kilometres north of the town.

The company hopes there are sufficient quantities to meet Inuvik's energy needs for about 20 years.

Currently all fuel used in Inuvik is brought from the South despite the tremendous reserves of oil and gas in the area, said Russell Newmark, chairman of the corporation.

While the test work is being conducted, as many as 30 job opportunities could be created, he added. And if successful, other employment and business opportunities will result.

Further south, the Canadian Energy Research Institute estimated up to $300 million could be spent in the southern Mackenzie Valley on natural gas development.

In two scenarios put forward by the institute, the number of person-years of employment in the area ranges from 543 to more than 2,700 over the next 12 years.

These predictions depend largely on the area's resource potential, the land available for exploration, community support and the price of gas, said George Given, an economist with the institute.

But with wells being drilled this winter after a summer of seismic work, he believes some of the development has already begun.

"I think it's safe to say there may be a sustained peak (in activity)," he said. "It could increase for a number of years and tail off.

"The natural gas price is the key. This is expensive gas because it's at the end of the pipeline."

In the Fort Liard area earlier this year, six companies pledged to spend more than $20 million over the next four years. This is the second year companies have said they will spend more than $20 million looking for oil and gas in the area.

And later this month, Ottawa's Northern Oil and Gas Directorate will announce if companies are willing to bid on exploring properties in the Sahtu around the communities of Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake.