Banned in Boston, LNG tanker will unload in Savannah

Sam Fletcher
OGJ Online

HOUSTON, Oct. 3 -- A tanker loaded with liquefied natural gas, banned from Boston harbor as a potential target for terrorists, will become the first vessel to offload at El Paso Corp.'s newly reactivated LNG import terminal at Elba Island near Savannah, Ga., officials said Wednesday.

Distrigas of Massachusetts LLC rerouted the LNG tanker Matthew to the Southern LNG Inc. facility at Elba Island after the US Coast Guard refused to let the vessel unload as scheduled last week at the Distrigas marine terminal in Everett, Mass., outside of Boston.

Company officials told OGJ Online they've already agreed to "certain permanent changes" in security for the Everett terminal and the operation of LNG vessels in Boston's harbor that are not being imposed at the other three US LNG ports.

Yet there was no indication from Coast Guard officials Wednesday as to when the ban against LNG imports through that terminal may be lifted. "I think they're still discussing it," a spokeswoman at Coast Guard headquarters in Boston told OGJ Online.

Distrigas officials describe their Everett terminal as the oldest and longest operating of four LNG terminals in the US. Since 1971, it has taken delivery of 438 LNG cargoes, accounting for more than half of all the LNG imported into the US.

The LNG tanker was denied access to Boston harbor "because we need to be sure we've done everything we can to provide a safe environment for this vessel's transit through the port and during its product transfer operation at the dock," said Coast Guard Capt. Brian Salerno, captain of the Boston port and commanding officer of the USGS Marine Safety Office there.

In that statement issued Sept. 26, Salerno said, "My job as captain of the Port of Boston is to take actions to prevent injury or damage to waterway users, vessels, waterfront facilities, and ports in my area of responsibility. ... Since Sept 11, the dynamics of that role have changed."

He did not say why only the LNG tanker was banned, however. Industry sources confirmed that other tankers are being permitted to enter Boston harbor and to unload cargoes of gasoline and fuel oil (OGJ Online, Sept. 14, 2001). Coast Guard officials said Wednesday they had nothing to add to Salerno's original statement.

"Boston does have some unique safety factors. It is a real risk," said Mary Menino, manager of the natural gas practice at Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Wakefield, Mass.

LNG tankers entering that harbor can only come in at low tide so that they can squeeze under a bridge spanning those waters, she said. Moreover, their passageway is through the inner city, "right past the financial district."

Unlike tankers that carry oil or refined products, no LNG tanker or terminal anywhere in the world has ever suffered an explosion or major fire, said LNG industry officials. LNG tankers were being built with double hulls and bottoms to minimize accidental impact on cargo tanks long before those safety features were required for oil tankers.

Natural gas cannot burn in its liquid state, which is achieved by chilling it to -260° F. Moreover, natural gas itself has a narrow range for flammability and will not burn in concentrations of less than 5% or more than 15% mixed with air, said Distrigas officials. And it can't explode if not confined.

However, liquefying natural gas reduces it to 1/600th of its original volume, cramming a greater amount within a smaller space in the tanker or storage facility. If the gas aboard an LNG tanker could be ignited or exploded "it would be a fireball," Menino said.

Boston news media reported estimates that such an explosion could obliterate a 4-mile area, destroying most of downtown Boston.

Salerno was among the participants in a 2-day LNG safety-training seminar in Boston in June that was jointly sponsored by the Coast Guard, Lloyd's Register Americas Inc., and Cabot LNG LLC, which owns Distrigas and the Distrigas Marine LNG import terminal in Everett. An internet report of that seminar said, "Boston is recognized as the USCG's center of excellence with regards to LNG vessels in the Unites States." It also praised Distrigas' "stellar, blemish-free safety record."

Distrigas officials say they're now trying to get that message across to Boston residents. "We recognize the impact of the events of Sept. 11. However, we also recognize the importance of LNG to the New England energy supply, particularly as we approach the winter heating season. We look forward to working with the Coast Guard, the mayors of Boston and Everett, and with the governor to resume safe transportation of LNG into New England as soon as possible," company officials said.

Southern LNG, a subsidiary of El Paso Corp., began an open season in September to expand its Elba Island terminal by 80% (OGJ Online, Sept. 11, 2001). The planned in-service date for the $145 million expansion is 2005, subject to receiving adequate firm subscriptions and necessary regulatory approvals.

The Elba Island facility had been inactive since 1982 but was scheduled to begin receiving LNG shipments in late September. Officials said volumes would reach the design sendout of 440 MMcfd in 2003.

Contact Sam Fletcher at

Related Articles

Petrobras workers stage 24-hr strike

07/24/2015 Workers at beleaguered Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) staged a 24-hr strike across Brazil to protest plans by the state-owned company to liquid...

Cornyn calls for more US energy exports in wake of Iran deal

07/23/2015 US Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said it would be geopolitically, economically, and strategically absurd for the US to maintain outmode...

BC bill advances Pacific Northwest LNG

07/22/2015 The British Columbia legislature has passed a controversial bill enabling the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG export project to advance (OGJ Online,...

Excelerate FSRUs complete LNG transfer at Pakistan terminal

07/22/2015 Excelerate Energy LP, The Woodlands, Tex., reported the completion of the first ship-to-ship (STS) transfer of LNG at the Engro Elengy LNG terminal...

Study looks at gas transmission, storage sites’ methane releases

07/21/2015 A comprehensive study of US natural gas transmission and storage operations found total methane emissions from 2,292 on-site measurements, addition...

OGJ Newsletter


International news for oil and gas professionals

PHMSA issues state pipeline excavation damage prevention programs rule

07/17/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a final rule to establish the process for evaluating state excavation damage p...

EIA: US oil output fell 50,000 b/d in May

07/17/2015 Total US crude oil production dropped 50,000 b/d in May compared with April and is expected to continue falling through early 2016 before growth re...

Advocates urge US to end its crude export ban in Iran agreement's wake

07/17/2015 Advocates called for removing the US ban on exports of domestically produced crude oil in the wake of the July 14 international nuclear weapons agr...
White Papers

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

Operating a Sustainable Oil & Gas Supply Chain in North America

When Tue, Oct 20, 2015

Short lead times and unpredictable conditions in the Oil & Gas industry can create costly challenges in supply chains. By implementing a LEAN culture of continuous improvement you can eliminate waste, increase productivity and gain end-to-end visibility leading to a sustainable and well-oiled supply chain.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Ryder System, Inc.


On Demand

Leveraging technology to improve safety & reliability

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

Attend this informative webinar to learn more about how to leverage technology to meet the new OSHA standards and protect your employees from the hazards of arc flash explosions.


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.


Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected