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West LNG Scorecard: Two Move On; One Drops Out

June 16, 2008
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With the month only half over, the western chess game revolving around proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal projects already has seen two proposals make advances in Oregon while one of the longest-standing projects in Long Beach, CA, dropped out of contention to build the first LNG facility on the U.S. West Coast.

On life supports most of this year, a proposed 1 Bcf/d LNG terminal in Long Beach Harbor along the Southern California coast was officially dropped June 6 with the sponsor Mitsubishi Corp. notifying the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). It had been barely breathing since a California Superior Court judge in Los Angeles refused to force the port to complete a final environmental assessment of the proposal.

Mitsubishi's Sound Energy Solutions (SES) CEO Tom Giles, who's company was the proponent of the five-year effort to site the first LNG receiving facility on the U.S. West Coast, said last month that the Japanese-based parent company would decide by the 6th whether to appeal the judge's rejection.

Ironically the same day SES was closing shop, FERC issued a favorable final environmental review of Bradwood Landing LLC's proposed LNG terminal along the Oregon side of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest and a related joint-venture pipeline project that includes Bradwood's developer, NorthernStar Natural Gas.

"We conclude that construction and operation of the Bradwood Landing Project would have limited adverse environmental impacts," said the staffs of FERC and other cooperating agencies, including the the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on the LNG and related pipeline project [CP06-365, CP06-366]. The FEIS puts the Bradwood Landing project one step away from receiving agency authorization to proceed.

Then last Wednesday, a second Oregon-based project -- Oregon LNG's Warrenton, OR, receiving terminal proposal at the mouth of the Columbia River -- filed its Water Suitability Assessment (WSA) study with the U.S. Coast Guard, marking another small step in its competition with at least two other LNG projects in the state working their way through federal/state permitting processes. Oregon LNG is the revamped project originally proposed as Skipanon LNG in 2004 by Calpine Corp.

The company's water assessment contends that LNG ships can safely navigate the Columbia River bar to unload shipments of LNG that will equate more than 1 Bcf/d of imported supplies.

In an interview with NGI in May, Oregon LNG CEO Peter Hansen said by mid-year the project would have all of its year-long pre-filing work completed. Oregon LNG has all of its major local permitting for a 96-acre site and surrounding waterway rights, and it has been working for the past year through the pre-filing process at FERC on its proposed $1 billion, 1.5 Bcf/d peak capacity tolling terminal, which currently is targeted to begin commercial operation in fall 2013 if the market for its capacity and connected 117-mile natural gas pipeline develops.

Hansen said the WSA confirms the Warrenton site is well suited for the most modern vessels, including the Q-Max class tanker.

Hansen touted Oregon LNG as having the advantage of a site and tanker traffic distant from population centers, bridges and other major infrastructure. The Warrenton site will have "minimal" impact on the other river users, making the site "ideal from a safety and security standpoint," along with having a lower impact on the area's salmon.

In regard to Bradwood Landing, the FERC staff said it believes that, with the implementation of NorthernStar's proposed mitigation measures, as well as the additional 110 FERC staff-recommended measures, the environmental impact of the LNG terminal project would be substantially reduced. The FEIS came only a day after NorthernStar submitted a biological assessment of its proposed facility site.

The proposed terminal would be located on a 40-acre site at the former townsite of Bradwood in Clatsop County, OR, which is about 38 miles up the Columbia River -- the main economic artery for the Pacific Northwest. The project, which would provide up to 1.3 Bcf of natural gas to the region, has become a politically charged issue in Oregon and Washington, with state legislators and landowners opposing it.

Last month, the Oregon Department of Energy called on FERC to reissue the draft environmental impact statement that was issued last August. The Oregon department contended that Rocky Mountain supplies would be readily available at a lower cost and with greater reliability than LNG imports. NorthernStar, in a counter-filing at the agency, charged that many of the Oregon agency's claims were incorrect.

The Bradwood Landing project calls for the construction of a single ship berth capable of receiving and unloading LNG tankers with capacities ranging from 100,000 to 200,000 cubic meters; two 160,000 cubic meter storage tanks; a 36.3-mile, high-pressure pipeline in Clatsop and Columbia counties, OR, and Cowlitz County, WA; and associated pipeline support facilities.

The sendout pipe would extend from the proposed terminal to an interconnect with Williams' Northwest Pipeline system north of Kelso, WA. Between the terminal project and the terminus of the Northwest system, the sendout pipeline would tie in with Northwest Natural Gas Co.'s pipeline system, Georgia Pacific's Wauna paper mill and Portland General Electric's Beaver Power Plant.

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