Northern Cross hungry for Yukon natural gas

Northern Cross has high hopes for its holdings in the Eagle Plain region. The small, privately-held, Calgary-based company is hosting a series of public meetings next week to spell out its natural gas exploration plans.

Northern Cross has high hopes for its holdings in the Eagle Plain region.

The small, privately-held, Calgary-based company is hosting a series of public meetings next week to spell out its natural gas exploration plans.

The company hopes to start exploratory drilling on its permits this summer.

“We have a five-well exploration program that we’re in the process of finalizing approvals on right now,” said David Thompson, the CEO of Northern Cross.

If it gets the go-ahead, the company wants to start drilling in July.

“Eagle Plain has the largest resource potential of any sedimentary basins in the Yukon,” said Thompson.

According to the Geological Survey of Canada, Eagle Plain is sitting on an estimated six trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“We’re interested in followup on historic exploration work that was done there,” said Thompson. “We think that there is a lot of undiscovered potential there.”

This isn’t the first time that Eagle Plain has been looked at as a potential source of energy.

The basin’s oil and gas potential has been known since at least the late 1950s.

This isn’t even the first time that Northern Cross has taken a crack at exploiting the basin’s resources.

When Northern Cross formed back in 1994, its focus was on pumping oil out of Eagle Plain.

The company even produced a few hundred barrels of crude oil, but when the Faro mine closed and the territory’s economy slumped, the company was forced to put those plans on hold.

All told, Northern Cross holds exploration rights for 500,000 hectares (1.3 million acres) of the basin.

When it won exploration rights to the last 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres), it pledged to conduct at least $20 million in exploration work.

Last year Northern Cross partnered with an offshoot of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, which is helping to bankroll the project.

“We’re expecting that the cost of that program will be quite a bit more than the $20 million in remaining work commitments,” said Thompson. “This could be a meaningful contribution to the supply of natural gas in the Yukon.”

With the territory facing a looming power shortage, Yukon Energy is currently exploring the idea of using liquefied natural gas to generate electricity (see story on page 19).

And that just makes the project more attractive, said Thompson.

“Certainly, having a local place to market our products would be good for us,” he said. “In the meantime, we’ve got some work to do.”

But not everyone is so optimistic.

“We’re concerned about the size and the scope of this project,” said Anne Middler, the energy co-ordinator for the Yukon Conservation Society.

Though natural gas is much cleaner than diesel, and there is something to be said for local production for local use, it still is a fossil fuel that carries with it some serious environmental consequences, she said.

“We really should be transitioning away from fossil fuels,” said Middler.

“That should be the primary goal.”

Northern Cross will be holding public meetings on the project in Whitehorse on Jan. 30, in Mayo and Dawson on Jan. 31 and Old Crow on Feb. 1.

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com

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