Dem. Presidential Candidate Sen. Kerry Supports Improving LNG Transportation Systems, Incl. Development Of New Technologies Such as Offshore Regassification
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(January 29, 2004) -- Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D, MA), whose candidacy is backed by LB area Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., LB-Carson) and CA Senator Dianne Feinstein, supports improving Liquefield Natural Gas (LNG) transportation systems -- including new technologies under development such as ship-based regasification that allows LNG to be regasified offshore and moved onshore by underwater pipelines -- as part of his national energy policy.
An LNG facility proposed by a Mitsubishi subsidiary for the Port of Long Beach is supported by LB officialdom, including Long Beach City Hall, but has begun drawing grassroots opposition over the issue of siting the plant onshore within the Port of LB, part of the nation's largest port complex.
The Port of LB is immediately adjacent to the district of Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, a member of the Kerry campaign's national steering committee. (The Ports of LB and L.A. are in the congressional district of Dana Rohrabacher (R., HB-LB-PV).
The Kerry campaign web site includes the following bullet point as part of the Senator's energy policy:
"Improving Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Transportation Systems. There are ways in which we can improve our ability to import natural gas from reliable foreign sources. The current infrastructure for importing natural gas from overseas is limited as the natural gas must be liquefied at super cold temperatures for shipping overseas and returned to gas form before it can be put in the domestic pipeline system. There are currently only four terminals in the U.S. where liquefied natural gas is delivered and these facilities often raise challenging local issues. John Kerry would support new technologies under development to address some of the local concerns about this transportation system, including development of ship-based regasification systems that would allow the LNG to be regasified offshore and moved to shore by connecting to underwater pipelines....There are ways in which we can improve our ability to import natural gas from reliable foreign sources. The current infrastructure for importing natural gas from overseas is limited as the natural gas must be liquefied at super cold temperatures for shipping overseas and returned to gas form before it can be put in the domestic pipeline system. There are currently only four terminals in the U.S. where liquefied natural gas is delivered and these facilities often raise challenging local issues. John Kerry would support new technologies under development to address some of the local concerns about this transportation system, including development of ship-based regasification systems that would allow the LNG to be regasified offshore and moved to shore by connecting to underwater pipelines."
The web site of the Mitsubishi subsidiary, Sound Energy Solutions (SES), lists the issue as first among its frequently asked questions:
Has SES considered locating the project offshore?
A. The offshore LNG terminal concept is interesting, but challenging and unproven. It also does not meet the needs in this area. Onshore facilities have enjoyed more than 30 years of technical development and refinement. They have an outstanding safety record. The onshore facilities have a straightforward design and a lower cost. Offshore oil (not LNG) production and shipping facilities are offshore because thatís where the oil is. Offshore oil import terminals are essentially just a pipeline to shore - an approach that could not be applicable for the very cold LNG. Offshore LNG import terminals have been considered where an onshore terminal is not feasible. By combining certain technologies, such an offshore LNG terminal could be technically feasible, either as a floating terminal (in deep water) or a bottom supported Gravity Base Structure (GBS). No such facility for LNG has been built or operated to date.
Other characteristics of offshore terminals are also disadvantageous. Offshore terminals do not provide the LNG inventory or maintain gas sendout that can follow the load demands or accommodate the regular arrival of LNG ships from various ports after 35 to 50 days of sailing. The water depths increase dramatically off most of the coast of California such that there is only a narrow strip of potential (if any) offshore locations that could accommodate LNG vessel traffic and a bottom-supported terminal. This narrows the choice to a floating terminal where the cost of the storage tanks would be approximately 5 times greater than the cost of onshore storage. These factors present additional challenges for off-loading, significantly increased costs and reduced availability of the berth due to weather. This latter factor means a need for an increase in storage volume, which is very expensive offshore.
In addition, offshore terminals pose increased safety concerns for operating personnel because of operational and space limitations. An offshore location also complicates both emergency response and normal supplies. The personnel operation costs are increased because of the lost time and expense of operating and maintenance crews. An increase in terminal capital and operating cost ultimately is borne by the end users. The technical challenges (at least "first of a kind") and cost disincentives are barriers. Another technical difficulty is that the imported LNG may need to be processed in order to conform to the gas quality standards of local distribution companies, and such processing is more efficient if it occurs while the gas is in liquid form. Locating the stripping facilities on the offshore facility may prove extremely difficult, and processing the gas once it reaches the shore is both less efficient and may pose environmental issues.
Finally, offshore facilities cannot provide LNG for vehicle fuel. While technically possible to transfer vehicle specification LNG to shore through a cryogenic pipeline, such a design would pose substantial cost and safety concerns. Instead, current offshore proposals call for the offshore facility to vaporize the LNG into natural gas and transfer the natural gas to shore via a pressurized pipeline. Once regasified into natural gas, it would be improbable and likely cost prohibitive to re-liquefy the product onshore. Vehicle fuel facilities have their liquid fuel trucked to them. This is impossible for offshore facilities. SES considers this limitation a critical flaw.
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