FERC approves Oregon Columbia River LNG project

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Sept. 18 approved the first new LNG terminal and related send-out pipeline in the Pacific Northwest after a 3½-year review.

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 22 -- The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Sept. 18 approved the first new LNG terminal and related send-out pipeline in the Pacific Northwest after a 3½-year review. Developers of the Bradwood Landing project on the Columbia River in Oregon will be required to fully implement 109 mitigation measures as a condition of the approval, FERC said.

The federal agency said the project, which would deliver as much as 1.3 bcfd of gas, consists of an LNG terminal consisting of a single marine berth, two insulated storage tanks, and other related facilities 20 miles east of Astoria, Ore. A 36.3-mile pipeline would connect with the Williams Northwest pipeline north of Kelso, Wash.

Gas from the project would be delivered to two contracted customers, Georgia Pacific Corp.'s mill in Wauna, Ore., and Portland General Electric Co.'s Beaver power plant, as well as into intrastate and interstate natural gas pipelines through interconnections with Northwest Natural Gas Co. and Williams Northwest Pipeline, FERC said.

Final approval came after the project's sponsor, NorthernStar Natural Gas Inc. of Houston, was granted prefiling status on Mar. 7, 2005. NorthernStar said that FERC's consideration of the proposed project ran more than a year longer than for any previous LNG project and reflects the agency's detailed and in-depth review.

NorthernStar said it expects to obtain the remaining required permits in the next several months. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2009, and the project is expected to become fully operational in 2012, according to NorthernStar, which is developing two other West Coast LNG projects.

'A substantial record'
FERC Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher said the 109 required mitigation measures primarily reflect safety and environmental considerations. "Our order is also based on a substantial record that encompasses more than 50,000 pages of material. We carefully considered more than 1,827 public comments, many of which came from six scoping meetings held in Oregon, and numerous studies and analyses from federal state and local agencies," he indicated.

"Bradwood Landing can help meet the project energy needs of the Pacific Northwest in a safe, secure manner with limited adverse environmental impacts. It also provides [the US] with direct access to the LNG markets in the Pacific region," Kelliher said.

FERC said its review of the proposed project also included consideration of a report by Oregon's Department of Energy to the state's governor and an examination of alternatives, including different projects and sites, alternative energy sources, and the potential for energy conservation and renewable sources to replace the need for the Bradwood Landing project.

It said that denying approval would deprive the region of a new natural gas source. "Energy conservation cannot replace the natural gas needed in the future, but can be a complementary component in the overall energy supply and demand mix. Renewable energy resources would not be able to provide the amount of energy equivalent to the Bradwood Landing project," FERC said in its approval order.

Filtered water system
The 109 mitigation measures that FERC's staff recommended and the commission adopted include a requirement for NorthernStar to install a system capable of delivering filtered water from the Columbia River to the LNG tankers for ballast and engine cooling during off-loading while the vessels are at berth.

FERC said the system's water intakes would require screens to prevent the potential entrapment or entrainment of juvenile fish. It also will require NorthernStar to conduct post-installation water flow assessments of the screens for review and approval by the director of the federal agency's Office of Energy Projects prior to operation.

It denied requests from Oregon's governor and others, in response to the project's final environmental impact statement, to issue a supplemental EIS. FERC also rejected requests from Columbia Riverkeeper, a water quality advocacy organization based in Hood River, Ore., and others for a formal evidentiary hearing to develop a record on the project's need and potential impacts.

FERC extended the comment period on the draft EIS to 120 days from 45, collected additional comments at six public meetings in Oregon and Washington, and reviewed studies and analyses from government agencies, third-party contractors, and others involving safety, security, and environmental issues.

Parties will have 30 days after the order is issued to appeal the decision, FERC said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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