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Briefs -- TOTE Maritme, Gulfport Energy Corp., Dominion Transmission Inc., Cheniere Energy Inc., Louisiana Methanol Plant, PPL Corp.

TOTE Maritime now has two liquefied natural gas (LNG)-fueled container ships -- Isla Bella and Perla del Caribe -- on the water. They are said by TOTE and shipbuilder General Dynamics NASSCO to be the world's first. As part of a two-ship contract signed by General Dynamics NASSCO and TOTE in December 2012, the 764-foot long Marlin Class container ships are the largest dry cargo ships powered by LNG, making them the cleanest cargo-carrying ships anywhere in the world, according to the General Dynamics subsidiary. The Jones Act-qualified ships will operate between Jacksonville, FL, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Perla del Caribe and Isla Bella, were purpose-built for the Puerto Rican trade for TOTE Shipholdings and will be operated by TOTE subsidiary Sea Star Line out of Jacksonville. By moving to natural gas, the Marlins will reduce NOx emissions by 98%, SOx by 97%, carbon dioxide by 72% and particulate matter by 60% over the Ponce Class ships currently serving in service on the route, TOTE said.

Gulfport Energy Corp. has dropped a lawsuit against a small village in Southeast Ohio, electing to resolve a conflict about its ability to buy water for its drilling operations from a reservoir in the community outside of court. Earlier this year, Gulfport filed a complaint against Barnesville in western Belmont County, arguing that a contract it has with the village permits it to buy water from the Slope Creek Reservoir for $10 per 1,000 gallons unless the "health and safety of area residents and businesses are impaired." Barnesville, Gulfport said, has refused to provide the water, which is in violation of its contract. Antero Resources Corp. intervened as a party to the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, but the company reportedly agreed with Gulfport that the litigation was impeding a timely solution to the matter.

FERC staff has issued an environmental assessment (EA) for Dominion Transmission Inc.'s proposed New Market project in Upstate New York, concluding that it would not significantly affect the quality of the environment if approved by Commissioners. Dominion first asked for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval of the project in June 2014 (see Daily GPIJune 3, 2014). At that time, Dominion requested approval by last April, which would have allowed construction to begin last month with service by November 2016. Cost of the project was estimated at $159 million [CP14-497]. New Market would provide 112,000 Dth/d of firm transportation service, with more than 33,000 hp added to Dominion Transmission's existing system. It would improve access for two National Grid subsidiaries, Niagara Mohawk and Brooklyn Union. A public comment period on the EA is open until Nov. 19.

The first train of Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal continues to progress toward online status, but the first export might not be until after the first of the year, which would miss a target set previously by the company. Cheniere CEO Charif Souki recently told Bloomberg, "Whether we actually export the first cargo this year or next year, I don't know yet." Nevertheless, Sabine Pass Liquefaction LLC and Sabine Pass LNG LP received FERC authorization to deliver and store propane and ethylene refrigerants for the first train of the project [CP11-72]. When it comes online, Sabine Pass will be the first U.S. Lower 48 LNG export terminal to enter operation. It will enter a global LNG market that is vastly different from what it was when the project was begun. The spread between U.S. and Asian/European natural gas prices has narrowed, and a number of analysts have said future LNG exports would be uneconomic (see Daily GPIAug. 26).

Syngas Energy Holdings LLC plans to spend $360 million to develop a methanol plant in St. James Parish, LA, on the west bank of the Mississippi River. The site was chosen, in part, because of the availability of natural gas feedstock for the plant. Construction could begin during the second quarter with completion expected by the end of 2018. Initial methanol capacity would be 500,000 metric tons per year. Syngas said it will buy 130 acres from NuStar Energy, which operates a crude oil terminal and logistics complex on the Mississippi River with a capacity of 11 million bbl. NuStar also has storage and shipping capabilities for specialty liquids, such as methanol, at the St. James site, where NuStar will provide rail and barge transportation services for the Syngas project. Syngas plans to build additional storage capacity on its site for truck shipping of its product. Syngas was formed in 2012 to develop, build and operate alternative energy projects using both renewable and fossil fuels. Its first project is the methanol plant. Louisiana has attracted other methanol projects as well (see Daily GPI, July 8; Oct. 10, 2014; July 18, 2014).

The U.S. Supreme Court said it will review an appeals court ruling on a Maryland program requiring utilities to enter into long-term power supply contracts with a developer chosen by the state's Public Service Commission (PSC) to build a natural gas-fired plant. Lower court rulings on a similar program in New Jersey were also petitioned but were not acted on by the Supreme Court. That program's fate is now apparently tied to the Court's decision in the Maryland case. In both states, the programs were challenged by PPL Corp. and other power companies who said they infringed on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission jurisdiction (see Daily GPIOct. 3, 2013). The Maryland program, based on an April 2012 PSC order requiring public utilities in the state to enter into long-term contracts with Competitive Power Ventures, was overturned by a U.S. District Court judge in 2013. Within days, another judge struck down the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities' plan to have ratepayers subsidize the cost to build new natural gas-fired power plants in that state (see Daily GPINov. 22, 2013). Appeals courts ruled against the programs in separate decisions last year.

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