Birds, bees…and LNG

Dec. 20, 2010
At various sites around the US and Canada, environmental groups have rallied to oppose construction of new LNG terminals.

Warren R. True
Chief Technology Editor-LNG/Gas Processing

At various sites around the US and Canada, environmental groups have rallied to oppose construction of new LNG terminals. Battles have occurred in New York and Massachusetts, and on the other side of the country, especially in Oregon. Efforts there managed to defeat Northern Star Natural Gas's Bradwood Landing LNG terminal and forced the company into bankruptcy (OGJ Online, May 10, 2010).

These opposition efforts evince depressingly familiar tactics: misinformation, appeals to fear, and transparent manipulation. Few efforts—none, so far as I have seen—have spent time looking at track records of existing North American LNG terminals: No explosions; no catastrophic shipping accidents; no environmental disasters.

This reality is nowhere better illustrated than at one of the oldest LNG terminals: Dominion Energy's in Cove Point, Md. Its track record of operating in one of the most sensitive water areas in the US belies the opposition's hysteria and proves these terminals can coexist with sensitive, often endangered species of plants and animals.

Heritage Trust

Dominion Cove Point LNG sits on the Chesapeake Bay, south of Baltimore, Md. In its current configuration, the terminal can store 14.6 bcf and send out 1.8 bcfd. Last year, the company finished expanding the terminal's storage and production capacity by nearly 80%.

LNG is pumped from carriers berthed at the terminal's dock, situated out in the bay, to insulated storage tanks ashore. Access to that jetty is by bicycle through a mile-long underground and underwater tunnel that reduces the impact of operations on the land and the bay (OGJ, Aug. 8, 1988, p. 11).

The terminal sits among 1,017 acres but leaves 90% of them "nearly pristine," according to spokesman Dan Donovan. "Nearby freshwater marshlands provide protected homes for several insects, amphibians, and plants. We use local, native plants in our landscaping so that we don't have to irrigate them," he says.

Donovan notes that the company is a member of the Cove Point Heritage Trust, as well as the Maryland Conservation Council, and the Sierra Club, Maryland Chapter. The site includes one of the "premier freshwater wetlands on the East Coast," Donovan says, adding that the terminal "is designed to blend in and preserve the beauty of Chesapeake Bay."

Dominion also works with the environmental community to promote research and maintain endangered plants and animals in and around the property.

The Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources, has awarded a $25,000 grant to the Coastal Conservation Association Maryland to expand its oyster restoration project in the Patuxent River, not far from Cove Point.

"This is the largest single project grant in the 14-year history of CCA MD," Donovan says. The grant will establish a restoration project in two Calvert County creeks that feed into the Patuxent River.

In March 2008, Donovan says Dominion and other supporters of the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative christened the Dominion Reef at the Gooses by placing oyster shell and oysters on the reef. In addition to providing $250,000 for the reef, Dominion funded placement of about 75 tons of shell and about 25 bushels of oysters on the reef, with the goal of providing the new ecosystem a jump start.

The oysters and shell were spread over a select portion of the 80-acre, manmade reef. Later that year, Dominion had the reef seeded with juvenile oysters, called "oyster spat."

Familiar story…

…at least to some.

Space here precludes more about Dominion's efforts and accomplishments. But its story is not that different from the two other older LNG terminals, in Georgia and Louisiana, that occupy similar wetlands and undertake similar programs to mitigate adverse effects on their surroundings.

No, not all is "sweetness and light," of course. Friction and occasional conflicts are inevitable—and manageable. LNG terminals in North America have made and continue to make good-faith efforts to blend into their environments.

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