- LNG Technology and Operation
- Project Overview
- Downeast LNG’s Development Approach
- Site Selection and Environment
- Economic Impact and Development
- Site Development and Operation
- Construction and Operation of an LNG Facility
- Marine Safety and Fishing Issues
- Safety and Security
- LNG Carriers
- Environment and Permitting
- Emergency Response
- The Gas Market in New England
What is Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)?
LNG, the abbreviation for liquefied natural gas, is the liquid form of natural gas.
What is natural gas?
Natural gas is a combustible, gaseous mixture of simple hydrocarbon compounds, usually found deep in underground reservoirs formed by porous rock. The main ingredient in natural gas is methane, along with minor amounts of other gases, including ethane, propane, butane, and pentane. Natural gas is one of the cleanest burning fuels, producing primarily carbon dioxide, water vapor, and small amounts of nitrogen oxides when combusted. It is among the most efficient fossil fuels for the production of power with little global warming impact.
What is natural gas used for?
Natural gas is used to generate power, heat homes, or cook. Increasingly, natural gas is used to produce power throughout the United States and to replace more polluting fuels such as coal and fuel oil.
How do you liquefy natural gas?
Natural gas is turned into a liquid by processing it in a liquefaction plant, where it is cooled to 260 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Once the natural gas is converted into LNG, it can be transported and stored at atmospheric pressure in insulated tanks that are similar to large thermos bottles.
Why is natural gas liquefied?
Natural gas is converted to a liquid to reduce its storage volume. LNG takes up 1/600th of the volume of natural gas. LNG is safer, easier, and less expensive to transport and store than natural gas. Moreover, inexpensive natural gas from other countries can be transported on tankers from overseas where there are large quantities of natural gas that cannot be transported by pipelines. Japan, Korea, and Taiwan receive almost 100 percent of their natural gas from LNG imported by tankers.
Is there a lot of natural gas available?
Total world natural gas reserves are greater than 6,700 trillion cubic feet. The discovery of new reserves has increased at a faster rate than consumption. The rapid development of natural gas produced from unconventional sources, such as shale gas, has significantly increased the known levels of reserves throughout the world. In the US, the shale gas reserves in the mid-Atlantic states may hold as much as 500 trillion cubic feet.
What is the operating history of LNG regasification terminals?
There are more than 97 LNG marine receiving terminals located throughout the world, predominantly in Japan (32), but also in South Korea (4), Taiwan (2), China (9), Belgium (1), Spain (7), France (3), Italy (2), Portugal (1), Turkey (2), the Dominican Republic (1), and the U.S. (13). There are total of 30 LNG liquefaction facilities, centered mainly in Africa and the Middle East.
Many of these terminals, particularly most of those in Japan and South Korea, operate in urban locations near heavily populated areas. LNG has an excellent operating history throughout the world. All of these facilities have been operating without serious public safety incidents, some for as long as 40 years.
Is LNG commonly used in the U.S.?
Yes. In the U.S., there are already about 110 LNG facilities. In New England, there are 46 LNG storage tanks located in 31 communities.
Some of these LNG facilities also have the capability to liquefy natural gas in the summer. When the demand for gas rises, LNG can be quickly vaporized (warmed up) back into its natural gas form and delivered to a pipeline grid. During the winter, as much as 40% of New England’s gas supply may come from LNG.
What countries produce LNG?
Major LNG producers include Australia, Trinidad, Algeria, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Brunei, and Qatar. New production plants have been developed in Norway and Egypt, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Russia, and Yemen.
How is LNG transported?
LNG is transported in specially built, state-of-the-art LNG carriers. Worldwide, there are about 370 of these ships of all sizes. These ships are designed to carry only LNG. Although LNG tankers appear to resemble oil tankers, they are much more advanced and better constructed. All LNG tankers have double hulls. The LNG is stored within two other internal containers to protect against leaks and to keep it cold. New storage systems within the ships are also being introduced, including “membrane” systems where the LNG is transfused into a honeycomb-like material.
LNG carriers are among the strongest, safest, and most technologically advanced ships in the world. They are equipped with sophisticated cargo monitoring and control systems and bow thrusters for increased maneuverability. LNG shipping has an excellent safety record: no major accidents in more than 45 years, and no release of LNG during a total of about 151 million miles traveled on 135,000 voyages.
How does an LNG regasification terminal work?
LNG is transported by ship and delivered to LNG terminals, where it is pumped into insulated storage tanks. Once it is warmed and returned to its original gaseous state, the converted natural gas is odorized for send-out. The following presents a more detailed description of this process:
Reception – Tankers berth along the unloading pier, where they transfer LNG to an onshore tank. In order to maintain the pressure in the tanks on board the tanker, a volume of boil-off gas (boil-off is the gas that forms from LNG in storage) is sent out from the storage tanks to serve as a load balance.
Storage – Tanks typically used in the storage and regasification of LNG are constructed using a double wall method to ensure stability and safety. Typically, the tank’s outermost layer (known as the outer shell) is constructed of pre-stressed concrete, while the inner shell is constructed from a nine percent nickel alloy. (Nine percent nickel alloy inner shell construction is the world standard in the storage of LNG.) In order to further enhance stability of the tanks, all entries (nozzles and gauges) are built into the top of the tank rather than on the sidewalls.
Send Out – Generally, each tank is fitted with two submerged pumps, which transfer LNG to six pressurized pumps. The LNG is then warmed in regasification units. Before being sent out, the natural gas is metered and odorized.
How does an LNG liquefaction terminal work?
In almost the exact reverse to a regasification terminal. The natural gas comes into the terminal via a natural gas pipeline and the gas is directed to a liquefaction train. The liquefaction train is a series of chillers that progressively cools the natural gas down until reaches about minus 260 °F when the gas becomes a liquid. The liquefied gas, now LNG, is transferred to the same type of storage tanks that are in the regasification terminal. When an LNG carrier arrives at the terminal, the LNG is then transferred to the carrier for shipment elsewhere.
How is LNG changed back into natural gas?
LNG is changed back into natural gas simply by heating it. At LNG facilities, this is done in heat exchangers called vaporizers. LNG is pumped from the storage tanks to the vaporizers, where it is then heated and turned back into its gaseous form – natural gas. This is called regasification. Heat for the vaporizers will come from the burning of small amounts of natural gas.
How does LNG behave if it is released to the environment?
LNG is always much colder than the temperature outside (-260 degrees), even if it is minus 20 degrees outside. If LNG is released into the environment, the temperature of the air and ground or surface that LNG is resting on will cause it to heat up and turn it back into natural gas. This process is called vaporization. This vapor, or natural gas, mixes and moves with the air. As it moves, it mixes more and more with the air which
causes it to become dispersed, or less concentrated, as it moves away from the area where it was released. Vaporized LNG leaves no residue behind.
What are the potential hazards of LNG and natural gas?
The low temperature of LNG can freeze burn human skin if the two come into contact (similar to frostbite). It can also cause some materials, such as common steel, to become brittle and break. This is why special materials and procedures are used to store and handle LNG. These hazards only exist very near the point of LNG release.
Do LNG and natural gas contribute to global warming?
Use of natural gas for power generation is more efficient than other fossil fuels, and leads to far lower carbon emissions. Carbon emissions for natural gas used in a single cycle gas turbine for power generation are 22% lower than fuel oil, about 43% lower than coal, and 45% lower than wood and wood waste. Using a combined cycle turbine for gas, as opposed to a pulverized coal unit, would generate carbon reductions of 60%. Natural gas for home heating, as opposed to firewood, has even lower carbon emissions. The table below presents the carbon content of natural gas as compared to other fuels.
CO2 Fuel Emission Factors
tons CO2 /
kg CO2 /
kg CO2 /
Gasoline / petrol
Distillate fuel (No.1, No.2, No.4 fuel oil and diesel)
Residual fuel oil (No.5, No.6 fuel oil)
|Natural gas (dry) based only on single cycle turbine||
|Wood and wood waste||
Source: www.GHGProtocol.org: The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative’s (World Resources Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development) Stationary Combustion calculation tool. Values from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and where noted, the Energy Information Administration (U.S. Department of Energy) and the United Kingdom Department of Environment, Transport, and Regions.
Do LNG or natural gas contribute to air pollution?
The U.S. has improved air emissions from power plants in large part as a result of the increased use of natural gas instead of coal. As noted below, the use of natural gas results in substantially lower emission levels:
What is Downeast LNG proposing?
We are proposing to build a state-of-the-art, bi-directional LNG import and export terminal in Robbinston, Maine. Depending upon the demand for natural gas in Maine and New England, part of the year the Downeast LNG will export LNG to overseas markets and part of the year the facility will import LNG which then be re-gasified and distributed for consumption in Maine and the rest of New England. Our facility will consist of one above-ground LNG storage tank, processing equipment, a new pier, and several small support buildings. The project plans to buy gas at Wright, NY, which could be US sourced gas or Canadian gas that is either imported via the Iroquois Pipeline or from Ontario via the TransCanada pipeline and the PNGTS system.
Why build a bi-directional facility?
For numerous reasons – including the increased demand for residential use of natural gas, the increased use of natural gas as the preferred fuel source for electrical power generation, the declining natural gas output from the supply sources in Nova Scotia, and the operational capacity of existing natural gas pipelines supplying the New England region – there are constraints on the existing infrastructure that supply natural gas to the region to be able to meet the volumes of natural gas that are needed during the peak winter months. These constraints drive the cost of natural gas higher. As a result, not only do residences that use natural gas for home heating pay higher prices but the cost of electricity are also higher because many of the power providers have switched to natural gas to fuel their plants.
However, these constraints occur only during the peak heating months during the winter. The concept of the bi-directional facility is that during the peak heating months in the winter, Downeast LNG will import LNG, re-gasify it, and send the gas to the existing Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline where it will be used in the New England to alleviate the demand and the cost for natural gas supplies. During the other months of the year when gas demand is considerably lower, Downeast LNG will liquefy natural gas into a liquid and export the LNG to global markets.
Where do you plan to build this facility?
The proposed 80-acre site is located on Passamaquoddy Bay, on the shore just south of Mill Cove in the Town of Robbinston, Maine.
Why is the Robbinston site good for an LNG facility?
Downeast LNG has researched and evaluated numerous potential LNG sites throughout Maine and New England. Based on minimal environment impact, community support, and technical characteristics, we believe that our site in Robbinston, Maine is the best available site.
Why do we need an LNG terminal in Maine?
New England and Maine are in need of LNG to meet the growing demand for natural gas at a lower cost. In addition, pipelines in southern New England are at capacity, offshore gas supplies from Nova Scotia are declining, and new EPA regulations on air emissions are forcing many electrical power generators to switch over to natural gas as their fuel source thus creating a further demand on the limited supplies of natural gas that are available. The Mill Cove site in Robbinston was chosen after extensive analysis of numerous potential LNG sites. It is in close proximity to the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, with access to a deep-water channel to the ocean.
What are the environmental impacts of an LNG terminal?
No chemicals or other pollutants will be discharged into Passamaquoddy Bay. The plant is quiet, with lighting kept to a minimum.
LNG terminals have very low environmental emissions. There are very limited air emissions and only rainwater is drained from the site. There are almost no chemicals used in the process.
Is LNG commonly used in the U.S.?
Yes. In the U.S., there are some 113 LNG facilities, most of them “peak-shaving” facilities, which store LNG for winter use. The Downeast LNG facility is essentially the same type of facility, but with a pier for marine deliveries. About one-third (40) of the country’s LNG storage tanks are located in New England. During the coldest winter days, as much as 40 percent of New England’s gas supply may come from LNG. That is because stored LNG can be quickly and easily turned back into natural gas and delivered through the existing pipeline grid.
What about security?
The project will meet or exceed every government security requirement. In light of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) are constantly improving safety and security procedures for LNG marine import facilities and shipping. These federal efforts take into account the latest studies detailing best management practices for maximizing safety and minimizing security risks. Most elements of the nation’s energy delivery infrastructure are undergoing similar safety and security reviews. Downeast LNG is required to work with federal regulators and local agencies to ensure that our facility and the ships that serve it are as safe and secure as they can be.
When did Downeast LNG begin looking at Maine and Washington County as a site for an LNG terminal?
We began our research in March 2004. Initially, our research focused exclusively on identifying communities that were receptive to LNG. This was done by speaking with groups working in the county, such as Sunrise Economic Development Council and Eastern Maine Development Corporation, regarding communities that had expressed an interest in developing an LNG facility. Thereafter, environmental and technical site conditions were reviewed to determine if the communities had the proper physical aspects to support an LNG terminal. These included, but were not limited to, proximity to pipeline, deepwater access (with no dredging), sufficient land for a terminal site, and minimal environmental impact.
Who began Downeast LNG?
Downeast LNG is composed of a small but very experienced development team of energy project permitting and finance experts who understand what is required to develop an LNG terminal.
Dean Girdis founded Downeast LNG in March 2004.
Robert Wyatt began advising the project on site identification, environment, and permitting in July 2004.
Who is Dean Girdis?
Dean Girdis has 17 years work experience in economic development and energy. From 1988 to 1990, he served with the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa, as a business development volunteer working primarily with agricultural enterprises. Thereafter, he has worked in the environment and energy sectors. He has 12 years of international consulting and energy project development experience in about 30 countries. He has worked with a wide range of energy technologies and projects including: fuelwood in Rwandan refugee camps; decentralized power for rural African villages; wind power in the U.S., Cape Verde, and Egypt; gas pipelines, LNG, gas power plants throughout the world, and competitive strategy in the gas and power sectors. The vast majority of his project development work was with the World Bank in developing countries, with a strong focus on the relationship between energy projects and economic and community development.
He has worked for a range of clients including national and multinational oil and gas companies, non-governmental agencies, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and CARE International.
Since 1998, he has worked in the LNG industry, with seven years experience in LNG supply, competition, and project and market development. While working with the World Bank and advising the Chinese government, he led a two-year study and formulated the development plan of the first LNG regasification terminal in China. Most recently, Mr. Girdis was a Director for three years at PFC Energy in the Gas & Power Group. In this position, he advised national and international oil and gas companies in the gas and LNG sectors.
Mr. Girdis was also an energy consultant at Arthur D. Little and an energy/environment consultant at Environmental Resources Management, where he worked on energy financing and economics, corporate strategy, natural gas development, energy infrastructure development, environmental impact assessments, and sustainable development.
He has a BSc in Entrepreneurial Studies (cum laude, 1986) from Babson College, Wellesley, MA, and an MSc in Rural Resources and Environmental Policy (with honors, 1993), from the University of London, England.
Who is Robert Wyatt?
Rob Wyatt has been a professional environmental consultant for more than 30 years. His primary expertise lies in the strategic and technical management and negotiation of major industrial development environmental permits; compliance with federal, state, and local regulations; and transactional due diligence. He has defined the scope of and managed hundreds of environmental studies and regulatory permitting programs for a number of Fortune 100 industrial clients. He has worked on projects in 39 states, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and the Caribbean.
In the port development and LNG industry, Mr. Wyatt is best known for his work as the Environmental Affairs Development Manager for the Puerto Rico Transshipment Port Project of Governor Pedro Rosello, and the successful grassroots development of the EcoElectrica LNG Import Terminal and Cogeneration Power Plant Project in Puerto Rico. For EcoEléctrica, Rob was responsible for: (1) environmental program direction, technical analysis, and management of investigations; (2) direction and performance of federal and Puerto Rico regulatory compliance programs including permit scheduling, applications development, and agency negotiations; (3) coordination of public interest group communications and relations; and (4) support of financial closure ($700 million).
Mr. Wyatt managed the Project’s Joint Federal and Puerto Rico Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and the simultaneous performance and negotiation of all permitting activities (more than 80 permits). Mr. Wyatt has a Juris Doctorate from the South Texas College of Law (Houston, 1993) and a bachelor’s degree (Marine Biology, cum laude, 1977) from the University of Miami.
Why did Dean Girdis found Downeast LNG?
Before Downeast LNG, Dean Girdis advised clients on the LNG business, including regasification terminal issues in the U.S. Being from New England, he closely followed proposed terminal developments in the region. He was particularly concerned by the site identification process, site development activities, and community issues related to LNG terminal development. Although some LNG developers had developed technically sound proposals, there appeared to be a disconnect between many projects’ technical and commercial development objectives, environmental impacts, and community involvement and relations.
Dean believed a successful LNG project could be developed that would meet the growing clean energy needs of the region with minimal environmental impact, while promoting local economic and community development.
What is Downeast LNG’s Approach?
Downeast LNG believes that the success of LNG projects hinges on two key components: 1) a developer who demonstrates a commitment to the community and support for local economic development, and 2) active participation by the community. We are confident that we can develop a commercially viable project while working with the community to ensure that residents are apprised of the project and play an active role in its development.
Given our experience with energy project development, we believe that our proposed LNG facility can serve as a catalyst for community and economic development. To demonstrate our commitment, Downeast LNG will prepare and implement an economic development plan and contribute up to $500,000 annually to support local economic development through business creation and job growth (see our Sustainable Economic Development Plan).
What are the objectives of Downeast LNG?
Downeast LNG has three objectives:
- Acquire the permits for and develop an LNG facility in Robbinston, Maine;
- Support and promote diversified economic development in Washington County and surrounding areas; and,
- Demonstrate that community involvement and participation can improve project development and address the needs of project stakeholders.
Who are the financial backers of the project?
Our financial backers are Kestrel Energy Partners, an oil and gas private equity investment firm based in New York. They are actively investing in this business sector and are committed to LNG project development.
Kestrel Energy and Dean Girdis are the owners of the project.
What does the proposed project consist of?
The proposed LNG terminal would include:
- An estimated 3,860’ long (possibly less) pier with mooring dolphins for an LNG ship.
- A platform on the pier equipped with loading and off-loading arms and one gas-loading arm, which creates a closed-loop system.
- One 160,000 m3 capacity containment LNG storage tank.
- Submerged tank pumps (used to transfer LNG from storage tanks to pressurized pumps leading to the regasification unit, where the LNG is warmed and turned back into gas).
- Pressurized pumps (used to move the LNG from the submerged pumps into the warming unit).
- 180,000 mscfd water bath regasification units (used to warm the LNG and turn it back into a gas; very low emissions).
- Liquefaction train to chill the natural gas to a temperature of approximately -260°F where the gas becomes a liquid.
- Boil-off gas (BOG) compressors (used to recapture the heat produced in the regasification process).
- Cryogenic pipelines connecting the terminal with the pier
- All control security / safety, telecommunications, and monitoring systems to operate the terminal.
- Support buildings and access road.
- Gas pipeline connecting the terminal to the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline.
Has Downeast LNG met with any local non-governmental groups regarding the project or economic development?
Yes. We met and spoke with the Sunrise County Economic Council (SCEC) in Machias and the Eastern Maine Development Corporation in Bangor since April 2004. We did this in an effort to identify potential communities interested in LNG, to better understand the needs of the communities, and to address the economic and community development needs for affected communities.
Downeast LNG continues to have ongoing discussions with NGOs on issues including LNG development in the county; interested communities; LNG project drivers and barriers; the social, economic, and political issues that impact local communities; and how best to work with communities to generate project support.
Will Downeast actually build the LNG facility?
Our project team is constantly expanding and we expect that one addition to our team will be a larger energy company that has LNG terminal operating experience.
What happens to Downeast LNG’s commitments if it partners with another company?
All commitments and agreements made by Downeast LNG will be written into our permit applications, making the commitments legally binding. Any company that acquires an interest in Downeast LNG would be bound by the same commitments.
How was the site selected?
We completed a separate regional siting analysis, Regional Siting Report, that evaluated 27 potential sites in New England, 14 of which were in Maine. We established a regional siting approach and methodology to evaluate these sites based on three conditions:
- Community issues.
- Marine environment.
- Land environment.
What community issues were considered?
The primary issues considered were:
- Demonstrated/voiced support by the community
- Private or public discussions among citizens expressing support or concerns
- Active town officials
- Willingness to work with project developers to identify sites
- Interaction with key officials, including planning personnel
- Identification of key project issues that are a concern for the community
Why is local support so important?
In the traditional project development process, local support is often the least of a developer’s concerns. This failure to address community concerns has caused many proposed LNG projects to fail or hit major roadblocks, due specifically to growing local opposition. In New England, for example, the Fairwinds LNG project in Harpswell, Maine failed in large part due to lack of support from the local community. Previous proposed projects in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and other states have encountered heavy opposition by the local communities. Even if state and federal agencies (such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) approve an LNG terminal, local forces can oppose permitting approval, which hinders project development.
In New England, where the independence and autonomy of local communities is so critical, it is essential—and fair—to secure local support and work with, not against, surrounding communities.
What marine issues were used for site evaluation?
Key issues in this regard are deep water (minimum 38 feet draft), sufficient turning basin for the ship, limited or no dredging required, and protection from waves. There are, however, few sites in the Northeast that offer such characteristics. The avoidance of impacts upon protected animal and plant species was also of particular importance.
In summary, issues considered were:
- Technical issues
- Favorable wave regime.
- Limited swells.
- Sufficient draft (at least 38 feet of water at all times, ideally 45 feet).
- Shipping channel with sufficient breadth and length (400 feet minimum).
- Sufficient turning radius – 2,000 feet.
- Environmental issues
- Minimum or no dredging required.
- No major presence of endangered flora, e.g., eelgrass meadows.
- Limited or no fishery activity including:
- Aquaculture leases.
- Lobster habitat.
- Molluscan habitat.
- Blood worm habitat.
- Limited or no presence of marine mammal habitat (otters, seals, porpoises, and whales).
How much land is required for an LNG facility?
Land is often an issue that stymies LNG developers. In many cases, the focus has been on securing a large tract of land (50 to 100 or more acres) in a coastal location. An efficiently designed bi-directional LNG plant with two tanks and a throughput capacity of 500 mmcfd can, however, be sited on as little as 30 acres of land and still meet regulatory exclusion zone requirements. For example, the EcoElectrica LNG import facility in Puerto Rico, with a similar throughput and storage capacity plus a separate power plant and desalination plant is sited on less than 36 acres.
What type of land environment and conditions were used for site evaluation?
The land issues that were considered included (but were not limited to) the following:
- Technical Issues
- Undeveloped land in the project vicinity – 700 to 1,000 feet of radial distance from the center of tanks sufficient to meet thermal and vapor exclusion zones.
- Ideally, few or no housing units within the exclusion zone radius.
- Ideally, sparse residential or commercial activity on adjacent properties.
- Site availability – land available for purchase with appropriate zoning.
- Access to existing infrastructure (roads, power, water, etc.).
- Energy corridor commitment – access to gas transmission lines.
- Flood-free zones.
- Undeveloped land in the project vicinity – 700 to 1,000 feet of radial distance from the center of tanks sufficient to meet thermal and vapor exclusion zones.
- Environmental Issues
- No significant presence of sensitive species.
- No significant presence of sensitive ecosystems.
- No significant wetlands on the site.
What other sites in Maine were considered?
We considered many sites in Maine, from Calais to Searsport.
We did not publicly discuss our interest in developing an LNG project with all the communities since many sites were later excluded due to land, marine, community, or technical feasibility issues.
Were seismic issues evaluated?
Yes. The preliminary evaluation of seismic suitability was based on available literature and personal interviews with professional geologists. For a full development of an LNG terminal site, it is anticipated that extensive geotechnical and seismic studies would need to be completed. Downeast LNG has conducted extensive geotechnical investigations that will be incorporated in its complete its federal and state permit applications.
What about archaeology issues at the site?
The potential for the presence of archaeological resources was also investigated primarily on the basis of available literature and interviews with various professionals or academics. In the case of the Preferred Site at Mill Cove, this type of screening identified the fact that there is a potential that archaeological resources exist within the 80-acre parcel of land. As such, the project conducted an on-site investigation at the Mill Cove site and along the preferred pipeline route to determine the existence of any such resource and any impact, if any, that project development would cause if implemented. No such resources were identified.
What about endangered species?
The research and field studies done to date do not indicate that there are endangered species or habitat on the Mill Cove site.
What about wetlands?
There are no apparent wetlands of significance on the land parcel. On-site investigations were authorized and completed to verify the existence and extent of any wetlands on site. The pier and its grounding at the property’s water front land edge were examined carefully to ensure a project design that significantly reduced any potential impacts to the near shore environment. The preferred pipeline route was evaluated in the field for the presence of wetlands and the pipelines route was revised wherever possible to minimize impacts to wetlands.
What about tsunamis?
There has been talk about the potential for tsunamis generated by landslides, earthquakes, or volcanic activity in the Canary Island area, and its possible impact on the East Coast of the U.S. Given the protected nature of being located within Passamaquoddy Bay and the elevated location of the proposed Downeast LNG site, tsunamis would not pose a risk.
What economic impact would result from the proposed LNG facility?
Downeast LNG’s proposed project will generate and support diverse economic development during its construction and operation. Economic benefits, direct and secondary, will include job creation and increased business spending throughout the construction and operation phases. Secondary economic impacts will be created through the provision of goods and services to the LNG facility and the subsequent increase in employment and business activity necessary to produce these goods and services.
The Margaret Chase Smith Center at the University of Maine conducted an economic impact evaluation of the Downeast LNG project as an import terminal in 2005. The same authors of the 2005 study updated their analysis for Downeast LNG as a bi-directional terminal in 2014. The economic benefits shown below are based upon the findings of the 2014 study.
Annual Economic Benefits:
|Construction Phase (3 years)|
|Direct local construction employment||1,101 jobs|
|Secondary employment created||1,249 jobs|
|Direct and secondary employment payroll||$374.8 million (three year total)|
|Operation Phase (30 years)|
|Direct operation employment||123 jobs|
|Secondary employment created||213 jobs|
|Direct and secondary employment payroll||$21.6 million (per year)|
How many construction jobs will be filled from within Maine?
There will be about 1,101 construction jobs over the 3-year construction period. We believe that about 80% of these jobs, or about 881 people, will be Maine hires.
What types of operating jobs will be created by the LNG facility?
A total of 70 to 75 supervisory, technical, and maintenance jobs at the LNG facility will be created, as well as about 16 tugboat jobs. We have adopted a local hiring preference plan (See Employee Commitment and Procurement Strategy) and expect to hire about 70 local residents for these positions at the LNG facility. We expect that all of the tugboat positions would be local hires. Benefits and health care will be standard.
Will there be increased municipal costs?
The construction and operation phases of the proposed LNG facility might cause an increase in some municipal costs. The cost increases would largely result from employee transit to and from the project site (e.g., creating roads and repair needs) and emergency service needs coincident with construction management and facility operation (e.g., police and fire protection). The developer would pay all additional municipal costs associated with the project.
Municipal services, such as those associated with schools or health care, are not likely to be substantively affected during construction or operation. The vast majority of construction workers are expected to be residents living within a 2-hour drive of the proposed. For those who do not reside locally, housing accommodations would be located in temporary facilities similar to the plan implemented for the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline construction period.
What about commercial fisheries?
No significant impact is expected on fishing grounds access or use. Any loss or damage of fishing gear caused by the facility operations would be reimbursed by the developer.
Downeast LNG commissioned the Woods Hole Institute to study any potential impact on the lobster fishery which resulted in the determination that any impact would be “small to potentially nonexistent”.
What effect could an LNG facility have on homeowner property values immediately adjacent to the site?
In similar rural situations, properties within the local and adjacent communities have actually seen their values rise given the increase in housing needs, the elimination of property taxes, and a beneficial increase in the quantity and quality of community services.
If the opposite condition arises at our project, there will be compensation offered to all local properties immediately adjacent to the LNG facility (either on land or in close proximity to the pier) whose values are negatively affected during construction and/or operation of the LNG facility.
Will Downeast LNG pay any taxes?
Yes. Tax revenue will be generated during construction, through payroll taxes, and through business equipment taxes. Sales and employee taxes will also be generated during the operational phases of the project.
During plant operation, taxes will include local property taxes paid to Robbinston and Washington County and corporate taxes paid to the State of Maine.
What about the impact on tourism?
There may be a potential project impact on water-related recreation and tourism activities in the immediate vicinity of the proposed LNG terminal. We do not believe there will be any substantive impacts related to land-based tourism in the area.
This conclusion is based in part on the current operation, and recent expansion, of the Mack Point oil and cargo terminal in Searsport, Maine, which has a relatively strong tourist-based economy and does not appear to suffer from the location of the current terminal. Additionally, the expansion of Estes Head Port and the opening of the quarry at the Canadian Bayside Terminal have not had a discernible impact on the tourism/recreational industries.
Although the Downeast LNG terminal will be new to the region, both in terms of a land use commitment to an industrial project and in the type of industry (LNG fuel import/export), similar projects have actually diversified the tourism base. This is true in Puerto Rico (Guayanilla) and Spain (Bilbao) where the opportunity to see an LNG ship in transit is specifically made a part of country highlight tours.
What will the impact be on residents in Canada?
On the Canadian side of the river, there will be limited view shed opportunities. Depending on project configuration and vegetative screening, some or most of the facility will be visible on a great number of days. Because the river is 3.5 miles wide at the project site, the visual impact of the Downeast LNG facility structures would naturally be obscured or visually unremarkable on days in which fog, rain, or haze exist. The site also has a heavily vegetated background of higher elevation which will diminish its prominence when viewed from Canada.
In addition to the natural visual resource screening factors above, the project intends to maximize artificial screening devices to essentially eliminate or greatly reduce the project’s visual impact to Canadian viewers. Artificial screening devices and techniques that may be used include the strategic placement or preservation of vegetation (e.g., tall trees), limited clear cutting at the point of terminal land-sea juncture, painting of the storage tanks, use of non-glare metal materials, and inward-focused lighting.
How many acres are required for an LNG facility?
This depends upon the type of facility, but we expect to develop about 40 acres of the total 80 acres to be acquired for the project site. The remaining land will be left undeveloped.
Will there ever be a need for more acreage for the LNG facility?
We have no plans to build any additional facilities beyond the initial proposal presented to the community.
How close will the Downeast LNG facility be located to residences?
About 20 inhabited homes are within a ½ mile radius of the proposed facility and less than 10 homes will be within a ½ mile of the docked LNG ship. The population density in Robbinston is about 19 people per square mile.
Who is responsible for decommissioning the facility when it’s done operating?
Downeast LNG and its investment partners will be legally responsible for decommissioning of the LNG facility after it ceases operation. Downeast LNG will cover the removal costs of the facilities and return the land to its original use unless another activity is viable and supported by the town.
Will on-shore activities be allowed near and/or around the LNG facility and the LNG ship when it is loading or offloading?
All existing activities on land will be allowed.
Will road traffic on Route 1 be affected?
According to the 2003 Maine Transportation Count Book, approximately 2,730 cars travel daily in a northerly direction on Route 1, while 2,340 cars travel daily in a southerly direction.
Given the relatively low traffic volume, the construction and/or operation of the site are not expected to generate enough additional volume to impact current traffic flows. An in-depth analysis of the traffic loadings associated with the three-year construction period has been conducted to ensure that potential disruptions to traffic are mitigated and/or eliminated. Such mitigation might include the establishment of a commuter bus system for the facility’s 300+ workers, so that Route 1 is not congested with individual vehicles during peak work hours or shift changes.
Is the school in Robbinston exposed to any inordinate risks?
No. The school will be more than ¾ miles away from the facility and about 1 mile from the LNG ship when it is docked.
Are any other schools, in the U.S. or Canada, in the exclusion or safety zone during transit of the ship?
No, not to our knowledge. The rules and determinations that define exclusion zones and the prevention of significant overlap with populated areas will be fully assessed by numerous governmental agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard. Public review and comment will also be an integral part of this evaluation. A complete evaluation of the features encompassed by any exclusion zones to be established will allow for a more thorough understanding of this issue – including any plans to completely eliminate potential conflicts.
What about pipeline rights-of-way? How will the route be selected and land secured?
Downeast LNG has identified six potential pipeline routes to connect to the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline system at the Baileyville compression station. One of the routes is identified as the preferred pipeline route based on environmental impacts. The different options were evaluated by government agencies as part of the effort associated with the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Statements for the project. All landowners will be compensated for any requests for rights-of-way.
When operational, how much noise will be generated by the facility?
Very little. The most frequently heard noises from an LNG terminal are those associated with the continuous flaring of excess boil-off gas (not proposed at Downeast LNG) and sounds associated with an LNG ship arrival and loading/unloading of LNG (typical marine noises– tugboat engines, clanging, etc.). By law, all sounds generated at the plant must be kept within strict guidelines so as not to interfere with off-property receptors. The laws would be applicable to the Downeast LNG project.
Will air and water quality be impacted?
Yes. It is not possible to build a structure on the land/water without some impacts to air and water. The key to ensuring an absolute minimum impact is to establish an excellent environmental management system that anticipates potential impacts and establishes, before impact realization, the best management and procedural controls available to eliminate and/or mitigate such impacts. The Downeast LNG team is very proud of its success in controlling environmental impacts during previous projects.
The impacts to air and water quality that might be associated with the project development will be extremely minor relative to almost all other industrial or commercial development activities. We know this because we have developed similar projects, and have seen the effectiveness of environmental management controls and permit conditions that are strictly enforceable. As we proceed with development planning and conducting public and governmental focus meetings, we will delineate the anticipated impacts and design measures to eliminate or substantially reduce potential impacts to air and water quality. These potential impacts and the measures to eliminate and/or mitigate them will be thoroughly assessed and documented in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as well as its many permits and formal agreements.
What types of communities are hosting LNG facilities now in the U.S.?
Information for the operating LNG plants in the U.S. is presented below:
- The Everett, MA, LNG facility is sited in a town with a population density of 11,241 people per square mile.
- The Lake Charles LNG Facility in Lake Charles, LA, has a population density of 1,786 people per square mile.
- The Elba Island, GA, LNG facility is located near Savannah, with a population density of 1,760 people per square mile.
- The Cove Point, MD, facility is located in a rural area that is not densely populated.
- The EcoElectrica LNG Terminal located in Penuelas, Puerto Rico, is sited a short distance from the fishing towns of Guayanilla and Tallaboa.
- The Kenai LNG terminal in Nikiski, AK has a population density of 56 people per square mile.
- The Cameron LNG terminal in Hackberry, LA has a population density of 18 people per square mile.
- The Freeport LNG terminal in Freeport, TX has a population density of 1,070 people per square mile.
- The Golden Pass LNG terminal in Sabine Pass, TX has a population density of 13 people per square mile.
- The Neptune Deepwater LNG and Northeast Gateway LNG terminals are offshore locations.
- The Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Cameron Parish, LA has a population density of 8 people per mile.
The population density of Robbinston is about 19 people per square mile.
Will there be any dredging of the river bottom?
Downeast LNG’s proposed site does not currently require any dredging, nor is dredging proposed in the future.
What will the operating hours be during the construction period?
Generally, construction hours will be limited to daylight hours to minimize inconvenience to residents. During winter periods of short daylight, the hours of construction will be consistent with local and state laws.
Where will construction workers live?
We expect that most of the 1.101 Maine residents employed as construction workers will live within a 2-hour drive of the facility.
The remaining workers are likely to live within existing housing units in Washington County.
Will there be a lot of traffic and noise in the community during construction?
We expect traffic and noise to be extensively managed and kept to a minimum. All noise generation must be kept below specified regulatory levels; this is an important element of construction planning.
What are safety and security zones?
Safety and security zones are put in effect when LNG vessels transit and dock in a harbor or inland waterway. The intent of the safety and security zones is to protect the LNG ships from collisions or sabotage. The establishment of project-related safety zones could directly impact the access and use patterns of the existing waterway; as such, these marine traffic “exclusions” or “restrictions” can become a concern for local fishermen and other waterway users. An additional concern is the potential for LNG ship damage to fishing equipment during the course of a ship’s transit through bay and river waters.
How large will these zones be for transit of the ships?
The size of the safety zone applied to an LNG ship while it is in transit is a major determinant of the impact on the fishing industry. The zone includes parameters for how close—sideways, in front, and in back of—other ships can be to the LNG ship during its passage through a bay or river.
Radial Zone (Sides):
A number of factors, including the low ship traffic in the Downeast LNG site area, are expected to result in a relatively limited impact as far as restrictions related to safety and security zone establishment. Downeast LNG expects that the traffic control rules most likely to be imposed upon its ship operations would be similar to (or less restrictive than) than those for Cove Point LNG in Chesapeake Bay, MD. At Cove Point, a 500-yard “clearance” safety zone (nearly 1/3 of a mile) is applied while LNG vessels are in transit. The Cove Point LNG facility has more ship traffic than Passamaquoddy Bay, including tankers, cargo, crab, and pleasure fishing vessels.
A larger safety zone is applied in Boston Harbor, but there are several factors that influence the need for a larger area that do not apply to the Downeast LNG project: the LNG ships in Boston must transit through a ship channel with considerable commercial traffic, significant critical infrastructure, and large population centers along the channel shores.
Distances In Front and Astern (Behind):
Operation plans that have been approved for most LNG ships to date also require that all other vessels remain clear of the main ship channel two miles ahead and one mile astern of the LNG tankers during transit. This is not significantly different than the best operating practices of most ship operations involving other cargo types (e.g., petroleum carriers). The application of this type of traffic restriction is typically not found to be significant to other water users.
What will the security zone be around the dock?
A security zone is established to circumscribe an area around an LNG ship while it is at port and unloading the LNG cargo. Depending on specific site conditions and facility characteristics, these areas may range from 100 to 1,000 yards.
What are the potential impacts on fishery activities due to LNG ship transit?
Potential impacts on fishing (scalloping, lobstering, and clamming) could result from the project if traps are damaged during the transit of LNG ships or if the LNG ship safety/security plans imposed by the U.S. Coast Guard create limited access to fishing grounds.
Normally, fishery impacts due to limited access have not been the case at other U.S. LNG terminal operations. In the case examples surveyed and known to Downeast LNG (e.g., Chesapeake Bay, MD; Guayanilla Bay, PR; Columbia River, OR (proposed)), there has been no substantive (or projected, in the case of Oregon) impact on local fisheries.
What is the impact of the jetty on fisheries?
The proposed jetty could have positive impacts on fisheries. For example, the current pier at the Cove Point LNG Facility has become an excellent habitat for a range of species, and is now used by crabbers to set traps, and by party fishing boats.
This result, however, is only due to the project’s detailed planning and accommodation of local fishery practice requirements (e.g., allowing small vessel transit under a long LNG pier, allowing continuous access to river waters alongside the main ship channel). This type of productive planning stemmed from meetings hosted by the developer and attended by local fishermen and U.S. Coast Guard authorities. For the Downeast LNG Project, a similar accommodation of interests is expected and foreseeable, given the small fishery population in the area.
Will fishery and recreational activities be allowed near the LNG ship when it is in transit?
Some water-borne activities will be restricted only during ship transit and offloading, about once a week. Ship transit from Head Harbor Passage to the pier is expected to take less than 2 hours, offloading about 12 to 14 hours, and loading about 24 to 36 hours depending upon the size of the carriers.
What areas of the Passamaquoddy Bay will be affected by shipping restrictions?
Downeast LNG will conduct a complete ship operations planning effort with local authorities and the US Coast Guard to fully determine the answer to this question. At this time, we expect only the area immediately adjacent to the pier will be impacted through the construction of the pier. We have not identified any major marine impact related to the operation of the LNG facility.
What happens if fishing gear is damaged or lost because of the LNG ship?
In the event of damage to fishing equipment (e.g., lobster trap damage) caused by ship transit, it typically falls upon the project owner to compensate for the direct cost of damages, so long as the equipment was not improperly placed in the path of customary ship transit routes. The potential for this type of impact depends on the fishing practices of the local industry relative to trap placement or other potential transit route obstacles. In most locales, the placement of lobster traps within a designated shipping lane is prohibited. However, the project area does not include specifically designated shipping lanes, and future restrictions, if any, will be determined starting with a preferred basis of “no interference with fishing practices” if at all possible.
Can Head Harbor and Western Passage accommodate LNG ships?
Yes. The US Coast Guard has conducted a detailed analysis of the physical characteristics of the transit route to the Downeast LNG site and the handling characteristics of LNG carriers. In addition, LNG carrier computer simulation tests were performed where the carriers were piloted through the simulated characteristic of the transit route under various weather conditions and situations. The US Coast Guard determined that the waterway s suitable for the transit of LNG carriers.
In the recent past, about 120 to 140 commercial ships transit through Head Harbor Passage each year. Some vessels are over 600 ft. long and have drafts as deep as 40 feet.
Of this total, about 60 to 70 ships pass through the Western Passage and transit by the proposed Downeast LNG site in Robbinston on the way to Bayside Marine Terminal in St. Stephens, New Brunswick. All ships transiting both passages do so without the tug escort that an LNG ship will have, though tugs are used for the docking of other commercial ships. LNG ships also have powerful steering systems as well as bow thrusters to allow them more maneuverability than other ships.
Are high tides, currents, whirlpools, wind, and fog a concern?
Although the tides are quite high in the area (Eastport has a mean tide variation of 18.4 ft., and a maximum tide variation of 20.9 ft.), they do not present an obstacle for either the transit of the ship or safe dockage. The Irving Canaport LNG facility in New Brunswick is in an area of higher tides (St. Johns has mean tide variation of 23.1 ft., and a maximum tide variation of 30 ft.). Transit through Head Harbor passage will be with the tides.
Currents are not an issue at the proposed pier site, as they are estimated to be less than 5 knots. Currents in Head Harbor passage are also not an issue in transit for the oceangoing vessels that carry LNG.
Wind and fog conditions do not appear to be a major issue at the proposed pier. At times of high wind or significant fog, the transit of Head Harbor passage may be limited, and access to the LNG ship by the pilot could also be limited.
What about the impact on right whales in the Bay of Fundy?
Current ship traffic to St. Johns, Estes Head, and Bayside Marine does not appear to have affected whales. No impact is expected on right whales during transit of the ships serving Downeast LNG. This issue was also reviewed as part of the formal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process and consultation with various environmental agencies and conservation groups. An important part of this study effort will be to determine the exact measures that should be taken if right whales, or any other large marine mammals, happen to be encountered during transit. It is not uncommon to have “spotters” on the bow of an incoming/outgoing ship or advance vessels to ensure that safe passage is made through areas populated by marine mammals (e.g., EcoElectrica LNG, Puerto Rico).
What are the jurisdictional issues pertaining to the transit of Canadian waters?
Downeast LNG’s understanding is that there are no existing limitations regarding the transit of Canadian waters by LNG tankers calling on a U.S. port. Based upon our discussions with the Canadian Coast Guard, there is no specific LNG shipping regulations in Canada. We also understand that the regulations passed in the 1970s restricting the transit of crude oil tankers through Head Harbor passage to the proposed Piston Refinery at Shackford Head were rescinded by the government. The International Boundary Waters Treaty Act of 1909 between the U.S. and Canada and the United Nations Conventions of the Law of the Seas support the transit of Canadian waters by LNG tankers calling on a U.S. port (and vice versa). These two pieces of legislation support the currently proposed LNG facility in Vancouver, British Columbia, which will accept LNG ships that pass thorough U.S. territorial waters.
International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, Chapter I-17
“An Act respecting the International Joint Commission established under the treaty of January 11, 1909 relating to boundary waters.
Article I: The High Contracting Parties agree that the navigation of all navigable boundary waters shall forever continue free and open for the purposes of commerce to the inhabitants and to the ships, vessels, and boats of both countries equally, subject, however, to any laws and regulations of either country, within its own territory, not inconsistent with such privilege of free navigation and applying equally and without discrimination to the inhabitants, ships, vessels, and boats of both countries.”
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Part II, Section 3. Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea
“Article 17, Right of innocent passage: Subject to this Convention, ships of all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea.
Article 18, Meaning of passage.
Article 19, Meaning of innocent passage.”
How does the U.S. Coast Guard coordinate with Canadian agencies? What are the rules governing transport safety?
There are established cooperative procedures between the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for LNG escort between the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards may be established, similar to an existing MOU for the transit of U.S. waters by LNG ships calling upon the Kitimat LNG facility in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Is LNG explosive?
LNG is not explosive. When LNG is heated and reverts to its gaseous form, the gas is not explosive if it is unconfined. If natural gas were trapped in a confined storage space, with oxygen present, the natural gas could explode if it were accidentally ignited.
Is LNG flammable?
LNG is not flammable. LNG cannot burn because it doesn’t contain oxygen or air. LNG vapor (natural gas) is flammable, but only when mixed with air in a narrow range of concentration (at least 5% but not more than 15% of a natural-gas-to-air mixture). If the natural gas concentration is lower than 5%, it cannot burn because its concentration is not sufficient to be a flammable “fuel.” If the natural gas concentration is higher than 15%, it cannot burn because there is insufficient oxygen. Therefore, the fire hazard of LNG vapor (i.e., natural gas) depends on there being a release of LNG; then the LNG vaporizing and mixing with air in a very narrow gas-to-air ratio of 5% – 15%; and finding an ignition source. Without these events occurring, there is no flammability.
Is LNG stored under pressure?
No. LNG is stored at “atmospheric” pressure, the same air pressure that we live at normally each day.
Does LNG dissipate once it vaporizes?
Several LNG spill studies have demonstrated that high winds rapidly dissipate the LNG vapor, and low winds (or no wind) keep the flammable vapor cloud very close to the source of the spill. Because LNG is not stored under pressure, even if there was a leak or failure of the storage tank and also of its containment system (which has never happened in the past 40 years), the LNG would evaporate quite slowly, reducing any risk
to the surrounding community.
Is Downeast LNG’s proposed project the safest option for storing LNG?
The proposed Downeast LNG project is similar to more than 40 operational marine LNG facilities worldwide. Land-based LNG storage tanks are the safest part of the LNG supply chain, with no major incidents over the past 40 years. Most recent LNG safety studies have focused on LNG ships and their transit routes and docking.
How large is the thermal radiation/exclusion zone?
The thermal radiation zone for the tank will be about 850 to 1,000 feet from the center of the tank.
What is an exclusion zone?
An exclusion zone is a dedicated safety area. It is no different in concept than normal industrial practices that require the prohibition of numerous people or facilities from a certain distance to maximize safe operating and emergency response conditions. In the case of LNG storage, the establishment of these zones is a precaution against allowing non-plant personnel or buildings too close to the storage tank. This is really not a whole lot different than allowing people to congregate or live next to a large gasoline or LPG storage tank.
How is an exclusion determined and by whom?
Exclusions zones are determined by defining, under a worse case scenario, how much area might be affected by a total loss of the storage tank’s containment system, most particularly the roof, and the possible ignition of the vaporizing LNG leak/spill. As with any fuel, if there is an ignition source, the natural gas vapor that is in the appropriate flammability range, will burn and generate heat. The amount of heat that can be generated by such a spill/leak and subsequent ignition, as well as the area that that heat occurs, can be easily calculated. Once calculated, the area that may potentially have enough serious heat or fire to cause substantial harm to humans and/or buildings can be determined and appropriate “exclusion zones” thus established.
Should I worry about LNG’s potential hazards?
Over the past few years, there has been a lot of misinformation regarding LNG. This is because LNG tankers and storage facilities hold a lot of stored energy, and people assume that this energy can be released in an instant. The fact is that LNG doesn’t explode when spilled onto water or the ground.
The final purpose of LNG—as well as other fuels—is to be burnt as a source of energy. Many fuel sources can burn, though not all substances that burn explode.
Failure to understand how LNG is transported and handled, as well as the characteristics of NG—especially how it burns—can lead some people to overestimate the hazards. The reality is that LNG, based on its safety record and characteristics, is one of the safest and most environmentally friendly energy sources available today.
Most people do not even know that there are more than 110 LNG storage facilities in the U.S., most of them in the New England area. People who work with LNG on a daily basis also voluntarily live and play next to the same place they work. People who live near an LNG facility often fish and sail at and near the terminal. This says a lot about the reality of LNG safety.
Are there government safety procedures?
The government plays a significant role in siting most energy production and distribution facilities, and regulates all aspects of LNG transportation, unloading, storage, and distribution. The siting, design, construction, and operation of our proposed facility will be regulated by many federal agencies, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Department of Transportation, and the Coast Guard. In addition, many state agencies will be involved, and the community will have the opportunity to participate in and comment on the proposed project during the approval process.
Downeast LNG will meet or exceed every government security requirement.
Does Canada have the same or more stringent safety procedures relative to LNG terminals and/or shipping requirements?
Canada does not have any specific regulations pertaining to the transport of LNG by ship. For LNG terminals, it often defers to U.S. regulations.
What happens if an LNG tank fails?
Should a tank ever fail and a leak result, fire is possible, but only if there is both the right concentration of LNG vapor in the air and a source of ignition. Since such a combination rarely exists, explosions are highly unlikely. According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), “LNG is not explosive. Although a large amount of energy is stored in LNG, it cannot be released rapidly enough to cause the overpressures associated with an explosion.” FERC adds, “LNG vapors (methane) mixed with air are not explosive in an unconfined environment.”
LNG ships have emergency shutdown systems that can identify potential safety problems and shut down operations. They prevent or significantly limit the amount of LNG that could be released. Fire and gas detection and fire fighting systems help to address the risk of fire. The detection equipment is so sensitive that it can detect leakage through a hole the size of a pinhead. Special operating procedures, training, and maintenance further contribute to safety.
What happened at the Cleveland LNG terminal in 1944?
The most serious LNG accident occurred more than 50 years ago, during World War II, in Cleveland, OH. According to the U.S. Bureau of Mines report, due to rationing, the nickel content of an inner storage tank was reduced to 3.5% (today’s standard is 9%). Shortly after its use began, the LNG tank became brittle and failed, spilling LNG that traveled into a sewer system. LNG evaporated and ignited, killing 128 people and injuring 225.
The Bureau of Mines report showed that the accident was due to low temperature embrittlement of 3.5% nickel steel tank, which is no longer used. In addition, the tanks were located next to a heavily traveled railroad station and a bombshell stamping plant, both of which probably accelerated crack propagation in the inner tank shell. The ignition of two unconfined vapor clouds of LNG did not result in explosions. The only explosions occurred in the sewers. Today’s safety regulations and codes require multiple containment systems and the use of modern materials, making such an accident virtually impossible.
What happened at the LNG liquefaction plant in Algeria in 2004? Could this happen here?
No, such an accident cannot happen at the Downeast LNG regasification facility, because the technology used is very different. A regasification plant, such as Downeast LNG’s proposed plant, warms LNG to a vapor and then feeds it into the pipeline. A liquefaction plant, such as the one in Algeria, has many components that are not found in a regasification plant, including boilers.
According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Algerian sources, on January 19, 2004, a blast occurred at Sonatrach’s LNG liquefaction11 facility, in Skikda, Algeria, that killed 27 workers and injured 56 others. Preliminary findings of the accident investigation suggest that cold hydrocarbons leaked and were fed to a highpressure steam boiler by the combustion air fan, causing an explosion inside the boiler fire-box. This resulted in a larger explosion of hydrocarbon vapors in the immediate vicinity.
There are major differences between the equipment involved in the Skikda accident and the proposed Downeast LNG facility (e.g., high-pressure steam boilers that power refrigerant compressors will not be used here, nor are they used at any LNG facility with the U.S.).
What would happen if an LNG facility was attacked?
The design of a full containment LNG storage tank involves a very thick outer wall of reinforced concrete with additional layers of steel and insulation inside. This makes it very hard to breach the storage tank, even with a missile. In the unlikely event that this happened, however, the likely result would be a liquid spill and a large fire. Because of built-in safety systems, the impact of the fire would be almost completely confined within the boundaries of the site.
What is the estimated ship frequency for the Downeast LNG Project?
Downeast LNG expects to receive and load LNG in approximately 30 ships per year.
How big are LNG carriers? How long will they stay in port?
Most LNG carriers use spherical (Moss) tanks, and they are easily identifiable as LNG carriers because the top half of the tanks are visible above the deck. The typical LNG carrier can transport about 125,000 to 138,000 cubic meters of LNG, or about 2.6 to 2.8 billion standard cubic feet of natural gas. The typical carrier measures some 900 feet long, is about 145 feet wide, needs about 38 feet of water depth, and costs about $160 million. This vessel size is significantly smaller than that of a Very Large Crude Oil Carrier (VLCC). LNG carriers are less polluting than other shipping vessels because they typically burn natural gas as a fuel source for propulsion.
A carrier can typically offload its cargo in about 12-14 hours and load its cargo in about 24 to 36 hours depending upon the size of the carriers.
What is the safety record for LNG carriers?
LNG has been delivered across the oceans for about 50 years without major accidents or safety problems, either in port or on the high seas. In that time, there have been more than 135,000 LNG carrier trips, covering more than 151 million miles.
Today, more than 376 LNG ocean carriers safely transport more than 240 million metric tons of LNG annually to ports around the world. In the year 2000, one LNG cargo entered Tokyo Bay every 20 hours, and one entered Boston Harbor every week. Japan relies exclusively on imported LNG for its natural gas. Tokyo alone imports more than 10 million tons of LNG annually and Japan as a whole imported 87.73 million metric tons in the last year.
What agency provides oversight of LNG carriers?
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is responsible for ensuring the safety of marine operations at LNG terminals and of LNG carriers in U.S. coastal waters. It regulates the design, construction, manning, and operation of LNG carriers and the duties of LNG vessel officers and crews. USCG rules often incorporate the International Maritime Organization standards and codes for the construction and operation of ships.
What does the Coast Guard do to ensure the safety of LNG carriers?
The Coast Guard ahs numerous responsibilities, including:
- Inspects LNG carriers, including foreign flag vessels, to ensure that they comply with safety regulations.
- Works with terminal and vessel operators and host port authorities to ensure that policies and procedures conform to required standards.
- Works with operators to conduct emergency response drills and joint exercises to test response plans.
- Ensures that operators have adequate safety and environmental protection equipment and procedures to respond to an incident.
- Determines the suitability of a waterway to transport LNG safely.
- Creates safety rules for specific ports. For example, in cooperation with port captains, it sets port safety zones and may require tug escorts. A buffer zone is required for each carrier.
What equipment is used to make LNG carriers safe?
The vessel-handling safety features include sophisticated radar and positioning systems that enable the crew to monitor the vessel’s position, traffic, and identified external hazards. A global maritime distress system automatically transmits signals if an onboard emergency occurs requiring external assistance. Most LNG carriers also have bow thrusters, greatly increasing the maneuverability of the vessels.
In addition, some LNG carriers use velocity meters to ensure safe speeds when berthing. When moored, automatic line monitoring helps keep vessels secure. When connected to the onshore system, the instrument systems and the shore-ship LNG transfer system act as one, allowing emergency shutdowns of the entire system both from the vessel and from shore.
Would an LNG carrier be attacked by terrorists?
Like many parts of our transport and energy infrastructure, an LNG carrier is a potential target. It is important to remember, however, that the frequency (number of port visits) of LNG carriers is far lower than crude oil, petroleum product, or fertilizer vessels. For every LNG carrier docking at a U.S. port, there are about 100 crude-oil, oil product, or fertilizer vessels, about half of which are single-hulled, coming into U.S. ports.
According to the Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration, the frequency of LNG port calls is far lower than that of other vessels transporting explosive and flammable cargoes. In 2011, as presented in the table below, LNG total port calls were 157, with a volume of 8.7 million tons. This compares to product and crude tanker port calls of 23,722, with a volume of 1,676 million tons.
In New England, there were 56 LNG port calls, as compared to 803 port calls for crude and product tankers.
Calls Capacity (tons)
|Product Tanker, BOSTON||
|Crude Tanker, BOSTON||
|Product Tanker, PORTLAND||
|Crude Tanker, PORTLAND||
|Product Tanker, PORTSMOUTH||
|Product Tanker, SEARSPORT||
Note: This table does not include fertilizer vessels.
What happens if an LNG carrier is attacked?
LNG carriers are much less vulnerable than crude, petroleum product (gasoline), or fertilizer vessels because of the ship’s double-hull construction and separate storage tank design. LNG carriers are also better built than crude or petroleum product vessels. Moreover, LNG carriers are escorted by the Coast Guard, whereas virtually all other vessel traffic into U.S. ports is unescorted.
Unlike other vessels, LNG doesn’t come in contact with either of the double hulls. There’s never been an incident where LNG has escaped into the water from a vessel’s cargo tanks. A second key difference is the nature of LNG compared to other fuels: LNG doesn’t explode. For example, an attack on a gasoline tanker could produce an explosion, fire, and environmental damage from the unburned spilled fuel. An attack on
an LNG carrier probably would produce a shipboard fire that would burn at lower temperatures and more slowly than a petroleum fire. That’s because LNG, which is kept at extremely cold temperatures, absorbs heat from the surrounding environment and evaporates. The resulting vapor, when mixed with air and ignited, burns slowly, like the pilot flame in a stove.
Are there any examples of actual LNG spills on water and the resulting impacts?
Yes. Shell published (in-house) “Accidents and Emergency Procedures – Methane Vessels” originally in 1976. As documented in the report, in 1973, Shell carried out LNG jettison trials on its new (at the time) 75,000 cubic meter LNG carrier, “Gadila.” The tests were performed at sea, about 70 miles west of St. Nazaire. Detailed observations were made of the event. In a series of tests, a total of about 600 cubic meters of LNG at a temperature of minus 165 Celsius were discharged overboard at the stern (this class of ships was designed for stern-loading in Brunei). The results indicated that the vapor clouds formed were low-lying, with well-defined boundaries. At the sea surface, no liquid LNG pool or ice formations could be observed, nor were any vapor “explosions” detected. In all cases, the vapor clouds dispersed rapidly after completion of each discharge.
What is the permitting process for an LNG facility?
The regulatory framework surrounding a significant LNG terminal project proposal in the U.S. can be very complex when compared to most energy projects. This complexity is marked by competing and overlapping jurisdictions in matters defined by federal and often independent state National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) programs, as well as the regulatory programs implementing individual permit regulations (e.g., Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Coast Guard, etc). It is not uncommon for an LNG project to require 50 or more permits and a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before site construction can be initiated. Each of these major permitting steps also involves significant public comment and involvement.
What is involved in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?
An EIS for a proposed LNG project covers a wide range of project design, regulatory, environmental, and socioeconomic issues, including those addressed by other agency permitting processes. Because an EIS’s process of interactive evaluations is so important, LNG firms employ recognized experts in key resource areas, such as biology, water, noise, safety, and transportation.
In conducting studies and preparing the necessary background materials for inclusion in the EIS, Downeast LNG is using both in-house and outside experts to ensure that our environmental review is as thorough and accurate as possible. The scope of the review is based on our knowledge of the affected resources, as well as public and agency scoping.
Resource areas that will be addressed in the EIS include:
- Geology and Soils
- Freshwater Resources
- Terrestrial and Wetland Ecology
- Marine/Riverine (River-Related) Ecology
- Special Species
- Air Quality
- Land Use
- Recreational Resources
- Visual Resources
- Cultural Resources
- Need for the Project
- Assessment of Alternatives
- Land Use Mandates
- Environmental Justice
- Species Protection
- Public Safety
- Resource Commitment
Could there be ecological damages?
In the case of a spill of LNG on water, there would be minimal impact as the LNG would vaporize. In the case of a large spill, the scope of ecological damage would be dependent on a number of factors – especially the water depth and quantity of water in the spill area as well as the amount and type of marine fauna present in the immediate area of the spill. The reason for this variable answer is simple:
- If a large amount of LNG was to be spilled in a very shallow and small water body, it can be expected that the thermal fluctuation caused by the vast amount of LNG would harm temperature sensitive species. If species were put in direct contact with the LNG for almost any amount of time except a few
seconds, they would be harmed by the –260 degree temperature of the LNG. Case in point: LNG safety demonstrations often exhibit a small aquarium with a goldfish in it, while small amounts of LNG are poured into the aquarium. The goldfish is happy as a clam as the LNG lays on top of the water and vaporizes to harmless natural gas—so long as the amount of LNG poured into the aquarium is not vastly superior to the amount of water in the aquarium.
- If a large amount of LNG was to be spilled in a deeper and larger water body, as has been done in experiments, it is possible that no species would be affected unless they came into direct contact with the super cold LNG during the spill.
Could LNG carriers endanger marine life?
LNG carriers are no different than any other ship or boat in the water when it comes to interactions with marine life. One significant difference may, however, exist between some boaters and LNG carrier operators: LNG carriers are not driven recklessly or with total disregard of marine life. At the EcoElectrica LNG facility, extra care is taken to avoid sea turtles and manatees, both of which are slow moving animals. In the case of the manatee, the depth and structure of the pier was established to ensure that a manatee could not be squished if it came between the pier and a docking vessel or under the LNG carrier as it moved to the pier or out to sea. Turtle “spotters” are even onboard LNG carriers at EcoElectrica to allow a change in course or slowing down of the LNG carrier to avoid collision with the turtle.
These requirements may seem extreme to some, but the LNG industry takes wildlife protection very seriously and always seeks to be a good environmental steward.
What emergency response equipment is required, and who will pay for it?
Downeast LNG will pay for all necessary equipment, training, and coordination efforts, including hazards communication, etc. If another LNG facility comes into service within the area covered by our response obligations—and it receives benefit from our provision of the equipment and services—it will be expected to contribute or provide equal and separate equipment and programs.
How much gas do we need in New England?
In New England, average annual demand is about 2,500 million cubic feet per day with peak demand of about 4,000 million cubic feet per day. The principle driver in the increase of the natural gas consumption in New England is the generation of electrical power. Presently, New England obtains more than 50% of its electric generation capacity from natural gas, compared to only 5% in 1990 and 15% in 2000.
Studies conducted by several parties, including the Energy Information Administration, estimates that the use of natural gas will increase in New England by between 250 and 900 million cubic feet per day of new demand by the end of the decade.
How much gas does Maine consume?
While total gas demand in Maine for residential, commercial, and industrial consumers have rose from 89 million cubic feet per day in 2008 to about 107 million cubic feet per day in 2012, the overall use of natural gas in Maine has decreased from 190 million cubic feet per day to 165 million cubic feet per day. The decrease in natural gas consumption is due to the drop in use of natural gas by the electric power industry. In 2008, approximately 100 million cubic feet per day of natural gas used to generate electric power, which decreased to 78 million cubic feet per day of natural gas in 2012. Presently, approximately one-third of the electric power produced in Maine is from the firing of natural gas units.
What sources of energy does Maine currently use to produce power?
In 2010, Maine consumed about 19,859 million kilowatthours MWh of electricity annually, with a total installed capacity of 4,430 MWs generating a total of 17,019 million kilowatthours. As of 2010, natural gas contributed to 49% of the total energy used in power generation, up from less than 1% in 1993. Other generation sources included petroleum at 1.6%, hydropower at 22.4%, and other renewables at about 24.4%.
What is happening with the offshore Sable Island facility, which imports gas to New England through the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline?
Most industry analysts, including current offshore operators in Nova Scotia, expect Sable Island to continue its quicker-than-anticipated production decline. Its production is not expected to last beyond 2015. A key indicator of this decline is the increasing penetration of seawater into the producing gas wells, pointing to reduced well pressure and falling production. Production has declined from a peak of nearly 600 million cubic feet per day in December 2001, to approximately 140 million cubic feet per day since September 2012.