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Oil companies BP and ConocoPhillips say they plan to build a multibillion dollar pipeline to move natural gas from Alaska's North Slope to the lower 48. It could be one of the largest construction projects in North America if it gets build.

Alaska Public Radio's David Shurtleff reports.

DAVID SHURTLEFF: The companies plan for a 2,000 mile underground pipeline that runs from Alaska's Arctic coast down to Alberta, Canada. ConocoPhillips Alaska President Jim Bowles.

Mr. JIM BOWLES (ConocoPhillips): This project will represent moving forward and bringing upwards of four BCFs a day to the U.S. market.

SHURTLEFF: And that's BCF, as in billions of cubic feet. They say four billion would cover almost 8 percent of the United States on a daily basis. But the pipeline plan is far from certain. The companies concede there could be upwards of 1,000 different local, tribal and federal permits to plow through before they can even bring in the heavy equipment.

This leads some, like Alaska state lawmaker Beth Kerttula, to regard the pipe plan as more of a pipe dream.

Ms. BETH KERTTULA: We've been listening to these guys, the oil companies, for a long, long time about this. You know, it's sort of the I'll believe it when I see it kind of feeling that I have.

SHURTLEFF: And that's because this isn't the first time major oil producers have tried to capture Alaska's natural gas. In fact, it was just a few years ago that a joint effort between Conoco, BP and Exxon failed here.

But BP President Doug Suttles says this time things will be different.

Mr. DOUG SUTTLES (BP): I would just say: watch.

SHURTLEFF: Neither BP nor Conoco will commit to a timeline because of potential licensing hang-ups. But they say barring any setbacks, the pipeline could be flowing at full capacity by 2018.

For NPR in Anchorage, I'm David Shurtleff.

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