Thursday, April 12, 2007

LNG Offshore

The clean burning fuel reduces our reliance on coal and needs locations in the United States to enhance that capability, however the environmental concerns are valid and require strong safeguards to address.

LNG faces complex landscape
Hurdles abound -- but so does tenacity of backers
By Matt Weiser and Carrie Peyton Dahlberg - Bee Staff Writers
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 12, 2007

Put a chill on the same gas that heats millions of California homes, and you get a public enemy that's been run off from town after town along the state's coast for years.

The latest setback for a proposed liquefied natural gas plant, which would perch well offshore from Oxnard, illustrates both the hurdles that the supercooled gas called LNG faces and the tenacity of those who say we need it.

It also hints at what other LNG proponents may have to try if they want to succeed where others have failed.

The latest proposal, called the Cabrillo Port liquefied natural gas project, is from Australian energy giant BHP Billiton. It calls for a floating gas transfer and processing station 12 miles offshore near Oxnard.

On Monday, the State Lands Commission rejected a lease for two seafloor pipelines required for the project, effectively scuttling it -- at least for the time being. BHP might appeal the Lands Commission's decision in court.

Today, the California Coastal Commission is scheduled to consider its own set of permits for the project at its meeting in Santa Barbara.

Similar projects have been defeated in Eureka and Vallejo.

Monday's decision is not likely to temper the state's demand for clean-burning natural gas. But it may force other projects also being planned to pay closer attention to local environmental concerns.

"Imported LNG could be an economical and relatively environmentally friendly part of a lower-cost electricity supply solution," said Mark Hayes, a research fellow at Stanford University's Program on Energy and Sustainable Development. "If we don't site more LNG facilities in the U.S., it'll sustain the current high-price environment, and what we will see is a push to burn more coal instead."

LNG is simpler than the fancy name implies.

It is the same basic fuel we burn in our stoves and home furnaces, except that it has been chilled to at least minus 261 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point it is condensed so it can be easily transported by cargo ship.