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Containerized LNG Proposed For British Columbia

A Florida newcomer into British Columbia (BC) aims to put Canadian liquefied natural gas (LNG) on international energy markets by starting small.

Jacksonville-based Crowley Maritime Corp.'s plan stands out as tiny by standards of multibillion-dollar terminal, pipeline and drilling schemes to fill overseas tankers on the northern Pacific Coast from remote BC shale formations. None are in action yet.

An Alaska operating arm, Crowley LNG Inc., has applied to the National Energy Board (NEB) for a 25-year license to export 287.5 Bcf at an annual rate of just 10 Bcf, or 27.4 MMcf/d.

Agreements have been made with FortisBC Energy Inc. and Ferus Natural Gas Fuels Inc. for supplies from utility- and regional market-scale LNG plants that they are expanding on the BC coast and building inland in Alberta on established pipeline networks.

No mammoth tankers are involved. Low-volume LNG traffic travels in boxy cold-storage containers on freight ships, barges, trucks and trains, according to the NEB application.

Huge Asian sales contracts, the target that has eluded the big Canadian LNG projects, are also unnecessary for the Crowley plan. Prospective customers include niche fuel markets along the coastlines of the United States and its dependencies, the application said.

The compact, economy-model approach to LNG works, Crowley said. The BC newcomer's NEB application points to a success scored over the past three years by Carib Energy USA LLC, a sister subsidiary of the Florida marine services and hardware conglomerate.

Crowley Maritime holds the first small-volume LNG export permits granted by the U.S. Department of Energy. Carib delivers LNG containers to two Coca Cola bottling plants in Puerto Rico, where the U.S. frozen energy product does triple duty (see Daily GPIMarch 12, 2014).

The soft drink factories generate electricity with the gas. But first, in the thawing-out stage the cold cargo chills their refrigerator fluid. Then finally, carbon dioxide emitted by burning regasified LNG is food-grade pure, enabling use of the power plant exhaust to put the fizz into Puerto Rican Coke.

The Crowley plan also potentially creates the missing link in a 2014 agreement for FortisBC to supply LNG to Hawaii Electric Co. as a clean, cost-cutting replacement for diesel burned by the island state's power stations (see Daily GPIOct. 30, 2014).

The Hawaiian deal has been on hold since last August, when Governor David Ige declared opposition to LNG imports even as a transition replacement for diesel while the island state works on entirely replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.

But starting small is embedded in the privately owned Crowley organization, as is evolving over far longer periods than political office terms. Founder Bannon Crowley started the firm in 1892 with an $80 messenger rowboat in San Francisco Bay, and his heirs gradually expanded geographically and across a range of activities from tugboat operations to ship design that have more than 5,000 employees and annual revenues exceeding US$2 billion (see Daily GPIOct. 25, 2013).

The Crowley plan for Canadian LNG envisions a wide trading range. The firm's export license application includes a request for flexibility to develop routes for all possible delivery methods across borders between BC and Alaska or Washington State, and between Alaska and Canada's Yukon Territory.

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