LNG and Coconut Oil on the Docks

What do you get when you mix coconut oil and liquefied natural gas? A minus-260-degrees-Fahrenheit Pina Colada.

Southern LNG might have made 18,000 metric tons of the stuff last Wednesday night had its terminal been operating when a 580-foot coconut oil tanker crashed into its docking facilities. Oh, what a party it could have been.

Fortunately for Southern and the local community, the side of the ship that hit the dock was empty and it will be another year before ships carrying huge loads of LNG will be filling the Elba Island facility's tanks again.

However, the accident did cause significant damage to the terminal and could delay recommissioning of import operations. As of yesterday, no delay was expected, a spokesman said, but the damage still is being evaluated.

Southern informed FERC of the accident by telephone the night it happened and filed an initial report last week. It filed supplemental information on Wednesday detailing the incident.

"Further investigation suggests that the vessel grounded in the bow area after initially [colliding] with Southern LNG's marine facilities. The starboard bow anchor subsequently hooked the dock's superstructure. These impacts caused extensive damage to the marine facilities," Southern told FERC. "After striking the fore dolphins, the bow of the vessel cut several outboard concrete columns supporting the second and third level concrete slabs of the unloading platform. The bow then pushed the second level slab, which collapsed to the main level, leaving the upper levels resting with an outboard lean over the river."

Southern said it has to demolish and salvage the platform deck before sending divers down to examine the substructure of the terminal. It has plans to remove the damaged elements and begin conducting repair work, but it probably will take more than a month to finish the clean up job and much longer to get the recommissioning back on track.

Mothballed since 1980, the facility received FERC authorization in March to begin a $26 million recommissioning. The facility is expected to begin importing 330 MMcf/d of LNG from Trinidad starting in January 2002. It will have 4 Bcf of storage capacity and a delivery rate of 540 MMcf/d.

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