Coast Guard Says LNG OK On Lower Columbia With Conditions
Posted in the Astoria Forum
#1 Mar 4, 2007
Coast Guard approves Columbia River for LNG site
PORTLAND (AP)- A U.S. Coast Guard report says the lower Columbia River is suitable for liquefied natural gas delivery ships bound for Bradwood Landing below St. Helens if certain safety and security conditions are met.
Bradwood is one of four sites on the lower river, plus one near Coos Bay, being considered in Oregon for import terminals. It is the farthest along of the five in the federal approval application process.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will decide after hearings whether the terminal at Bradwood can be built. The developers, Northern Star Natural Gas, hope to break ground this fall but there is considerable local opposition from people worried about possible accidents or terrorism.
Northern Star said in a statement dated Thursday that it accepts the Coast Guard conditions. The company envisions about 125 deliveries a year to Bradwood.
The Coast Guard said the risk reduction measures include a security zone of 500 yards around an LNG vessel, ending at the shoreline, which no vessel can enter without permission of the Coast Guard Captain of the Port.
The zone would be 200 yards while the ship was at dock, and the dock would have a 50-yard security zone if no LNG vessel is there.
It specified that for the first six months there would have to be at least two river or bar pilots on board for the entire transit and that for at least that long all transits would be in daylight unless otherwise authorized.
Transit and bar crossings must be coordinated to avoid conflict with other ships and boats and a camera system must be installed capable of monitoring the entire river route.
Each LNG ship must be escorted by at least two tugs, plus a third to help in turning and mooring.
LNG ships would have to have safety inspections at least once a year and shore-side firefighting facilities would have to be installed.
The Coast Guard would require gas detectors and training in their use in case of leaks.
When cruise ships are in the Port of Astoria, where a dozen or so call each year, LNG ships could enter the river only when visibility is six miles or more.
The capacity of the ships would be limited to 148,000 cubic meters until studies concerning vessels with larger capacities are complete.
At least four states, Maryland, Georgia, Louisiana and Massachusetts, have LNG import terminals. Opposition has scuttled projects in Maine, California and Alabama.
LNG is natural gas cooled until it turns to liquid so it can be shipped across the ocean in special tankers. As a liquid, LNG cannot explode and is not flammable. If released, it becomes a colorless, odorless vapor that can catch fire. It will explode only if in a confined area.
It is regassified through warming and sent through pipelines where much of it goes to power electrical generating plants.
About 50 more terminals are in various stages of proposal or planning in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Industry advocates say the safety risks are exaggerated, citing a 40-year history of more than 35,000 shipments of LNG worldwide without a significant release of the fuel or a fire.
The last liquefied natural gas explosion in the United States was in Cleveland when a poorly designed tank blew up in 1944, killing 128 people and leveling a square mile. A tank blast in Algeria in 2004 killed 30 workers and injured dozens.
Bradwood Landing, a former lumber mill company town, is 38 river miles up from the Columbia's mouth. Northern Star wants to build tanks that would send out about 1 billion cubic feet a day to meet about a third of the needs of the Pacific Northwest.
The tip of rural but inhabited Puget Island in the Columbia River is about a half mile from the proposed terminal where the 1,000-foot-long ships would unload.
Skeptical residents there say a fireball from the tanks could cause second-degree burns to some islanders and opposition is widespread despite industry assurances.
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