The Port Ambrose Project, a terminal that would be sited off the coasts of New York and New Jersey to import liquefied natural gas (LNG), has received a final environmental impact statement (EIS) from the U.S. Maritime Administration and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
The final EIS was delayed by the agencies earlier this year to allow extra time to consider numerous public and governmental agency comments on the project's draft EIS (see Daily GPI, March 25).
"The EIS is the result of an exhaustive, multi-year state and federal study and confirms that Port Ambrose is a safe and environmentally responsible project with minimal impacts," said Liberty Natural Gas CEO Roger Whelan, whose company is backing the project. "It has been more than three years since we submitted the Port Ambrose application, and during that time we have worked to demonstrate -- and the comprehensive environmental and safety reviews by experts in high-level federal and state agencies confirm -- that the project is safe and needed."
Port Ambrose would deliver natural gas to markets during peak winter demand times via an offshore pipeline that would interconnect with the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline system. ICF International has estimated that the annualized Port Ambrose consumer benefit to New York and New Jersey gas consumers would be $300 million a year from 2018, according to Liberty.
Besides delivering regasified LNG from Trinidad and Tobago, Africa and elsewhere, the project could also receive LNG sourced from the U.S. Gulf Coast, Whelan told NGI, assuming the appropriate regulatory approvals are secured. Currently, the Jones Act and Deepwater Ports Act would not allow such shipments, he said.
The project's National Environmental Policy Act review was conducted under the USCG, so the project did not require review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Whelan said. DOE was a cooperating agency with the USCG. The clock now starts on a 45-day period during which the New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may comment on the project or veto it altogether, Whelan said, adding that he does not expect a veto from either governor.
A record of decision would follow 45 days after the governors' comment period and a license thereafter. If approved, construction could begin next year.
Liberty could deliver 10-12 cargoes into the New York market during the November-March period every year, Whelan said. Even with the close proximity of the Marcellus and Utica shales, and infrastructure development in progress to carry more of that gas to eastern markets, Liberty management still sees a need for LNG imports.
"New York is currently the fourth-largest consuming state of natural gas in the country, and demand is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades, with the majority of the growth in the capacity constrained New York City and Long Island areas," according to the Port Ambrose project website. "Regional growth in demand for natural gas is projected to outpace growth in supply infrastructure, even allowing for the expected development growth of the Marcellus Shale."
Liberty is a portfolio company of a fund advised by Toronto-based West Face Capital. West Face and affiliates also are developing Port Meridian, an LNG port in northwest England. Port Ambrose and Port Meridian could be used as an integrated LNG system to deliver cargoes on a seasonal basis to markets in both New York and the UK, Liberty said.