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Weaver's Cove Explores Offshore LNG Unloading Option

April 7, 2008
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In response to concerns expressed by the community and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as a recent denial of a dredging permit by Massachusetts, Weaver's Cove Energy says it is exploring an alternative option that calls for the construction of an offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) unloading berth in Mount Hope Bay and an underwater pipeline to transport LNG to a proposed terminal site in Fall River, MA.

"If moving LNG tanker unloading operations offshore proves technically and economically feasible, it would address many of the community's concerns while providing the benefits of jobs, taxes and lower energy prices," said Weaver's Cove CEO Gordon Shearer.

But the Weaver's Cove revised proposal was quickly met with opposition. "From an environmental standpoint, this proposal is even more invasive of Mount Hope Bay than the plans that have been previously rejected," said Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch. He called on the company to abandon the plan.

Weaver's Cove said it will continue to pursue the permits necessary to construct the Fall River LNG terminal as approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2005 (see NGI, July 4, 2005). At the same time, however, the company said it will ask FERC to begin a pre-filing review of the alternative unloading berth option. It also noted that it will submit filings to other federal agencies and the state of Massachusetts in the coming months.

The offloading berth would be built in Mount Hope Bay, about four miles south of the LNG terminal proposed for Fall River, according to Weaver's Cove. The proposed underwater pipeline facilities would run from the unloading berth up the western side of the Taunton River to the terminal site.

LNG would be stored at the Fall River site and regasified for delivery through natural gas pipelines. Weaver's Cove said LNG also would be trucked to other storage tanks throughout New England, including an LNG storage tank that has operated on Bay Street in Fall River for more than 30 years.

Weaver's Cove believes the alternative option responds to the community's and Coast Guard's concerns about the project, as well as cuts down on the need to dredge the Taunton River in southern Massachusetts, which flows into Mount Hope Bay, an arm of Narragansett Bay.

In October 2007, the Coast Guard said the Taunton River was "[was] unsuitable from a navigation safety perspective for the type, size and frequency of LNG marine traffic associated with [the Weaver's Cove] proposal" (see NGI, Oct. 29, 2007) Last month the project suffered another blow when the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection denied a request by Weaver's Cove Energy to dredge the Taunton River to a depth to accommodate LNG tankers.

The Weaver's Cove project has been the target of fierce opposition by local, state and federal officials, who are adamant against building LNG infrastructure in their backyard, although they admit that more natural gas supply is needed for the region (see NGI, Jan. 30, 2006). If built, the proposed terminal would provide 800 MMcf/d of peak sendout capacity, 400 MMcf/d of baseload supply and 200,000 metric tons of LNG storage.

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