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The LNG debate

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Last month’s article on liquefied natural gas [AT THE BRINK, MAY] contained several omissions regarding the safety record of liquefied natural gas, the Northwest’s need for additional gas, and the potential impacts of LNG carriers on the Columbia River.

Regarding safety, there has never been a failure of a 9% nickel-steel LNG containment tank either on land or at sea. The tragic fire resulting from a cracked storage tank in Ohio in 1944 was the result of improper metals being used in its construction. The fire at the Algerian LNG facility resulted from a steam boiler failure, and the plant’s design is not approved for use in the United States because of safety concerns.

LNG opponents question Oregon’s need for additional gas, but there are no acceptable alternatives that will meet the state’s need for power. Although improving, renewable energy sources such as wind are not a reliable peak-load source of power. Nuclear power is unlikely in this region. Hydropower output will be flat, as no new dams will be built. And coal-fired power plants are significant polluters. The only option left is gas, but the Northwest’s traditional supplies from Alberta and the U.S. Rockies are declining. With almost half of the planned new power plants in the region being gas-fired, the region needs LNG.

As for impacts of LNG carrier operations on the lower Columbia River, the Coast Guard has said that it expects to allow “routine” transits of other vessels through the 500-yard safety/security zone around LNG carriers. In the planning of its Bradwood Landing LNG terminal, NorthernStar Natural Gas has worked closely with the Coast Guard, ports, the Columbia River Bar and River Pilots, and commercial and recreational fishers to ensure its carriers will not create a “bottleneck” on the river.

Joe Desmond

Vice president for external relations
NorthernStar Natural Gas, Bradwood Landing

In Astoria there has been a great deal of controversy about liquefied natural gas. Friend-ships have evaporated and businesses have been split over the issue.  It has also resulted in a very contentious election for Port of Astoria commission positions.

I don’t believe your readers got enough background about the need for more natural gas and the dwindling supplies of natural gas coming from Canada. I also don’t believe you discussed the Cleveland and Algeria accidents to the depth that you should have.

In the first case, the LNG tank was constructed with inappropriate metal and the containment area drained into the city sewer system — a real formula for disaster. In the second case, a minor problem was magnified by the fact that the LNG facility was located in an industrial area.

The article also gave legitimacy to a newly formed local group, the Columbia River Business Alliance. This group does not represent many mainstream businesses in the Astoria area. The primary reason it was organized was not to foster business and economic development but to fight the establishment of LNG facilities on the Columbia River.

The group states that it is interested in creating jobs and that it fears LNG will hurt the area’s tourism industry. This does not appear to be the case.

There is a Korean investor group that is interested in developing a high-end recreational facility for Asian tourists. They are not worried about an LNG facility adjoining the property they are interested in acquiring.

And how about the quality of jobs? The construction of an LNG terminal would create about 500 high-paying jobs over a period of about three years. Once constructed, the facility would require about 50 well-paying jobs. A good portion of these wages would be spent in the community, not to mention the real estate taxes that would be generated by the facility.

Don McDaniel


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