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LNG Transshipment Port Planned for Newfoundland

Newfoundland LNG launched plans last week to build North America's first liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage and transshipment facility at Grassy Point on Placentia Bay in southeastern Newfoundland. The St. John's, NF-based company is expecting a burgeoning market for LNG transshipment facilities for overseas imports entering the North American marketplace because of the economics of the LNG trade in the Atlantic Basin.

The company, which is a joint venture of North Atlantic Pipeline Partners LP and LNG Partners LLC, filed plans for the project with federal and provincial regulators. It would include eight 160,000-cubic-meter storage tanks, three jetties with berthing facilities capable of mooring 265,000-cubic-meter LNG cargo ships, and a tugboat basin along one of North America's deepest ice-free ports. It will not include LNG regasification facilities.

The project, which is expected to accommodate up to 400 vessels per year, is slated to begin construction next summer with service in late 2010.

"The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has stated its desire to establish the province as an 'energy warehouse' and the construction of an LNG terminal contributes to the critical mass of energy infrastructure in the province," said Mark Turner, president of Newfoundland LNG. "LNG is of vital importance to the North American energy equation and the proposed location adjacent to the high-demand United States Northeast market enhances the viability."

The company believes the province offers "unique and strategic geographical advantages," particularly for LNG suppliers in the North Sea and Barents Sea regions but also for suppliers in the Persian Gulf. Suppliers bringing LNG from those areas will require "market flexibility, penetration and logistical consideration for addressing long transportation distances and accessibility." The Grassy Point project is designed to provide these Atlantic Basin LNG suppliers with supply-chain solutions.

It will provide facilities for LNG cargo transfer to another LNG cargo ship, LNG storage and a lay-up site for in-transit LNG carriers. The marine facility will enable larger LNG vessels to offload their cargo and commence their return voyage. The terminal also will provide land-based storage for reloading smaller or specialized LNG carriers for customers with peak-use requirements, or seasonal or special needs.

"Due to existing market dynamics, such as offshore regasification technology, buoy-type import terminals and longer shipping distances involved in the global transport of LNG supplies, there is a predicted long-term need for strategic transshipment and storage facilities to service key North American markets," the company said in its environmental assessment registration. "By allowing long-haul vessels to transship cargoes into smaller vessels that have buoy connection ports, a transshipment and storage facility maximizes the buoy-type import terminal's use.

"In addition, with construction orders already placed for the 265,000-cubic-meter LNG tankers, a transshipment and storage facility will allow delivery into existing and proposed receiving terminals that cannot accommodate the larger vessels."

Turner noted that the new larger LNG vessels simply cannot enter many of U.S. ports. "This is all based on economies of scale," he said. "Coming from Norway, for example, or from the Persian Gulf, ordinarily they can only do about 15 cargoes a year but by having a transshipment facility..., which is basically a day and a half steam from Massachusetts, they can make 20-30 shipments a year.

"Many of the offshore buoys require specially designed ships and there are only a few of those types of ships available," he added. "There are three right now and there are some more being built but not that many. We have some other clients who also will require smaller vessels." He noted that the redesigned Weaver's Cove LNG project proposed for Fall River, MA, would require small LNG vessels. The transshipment facility would allow smaller vessels to travel shorter distances and to make more trips, improving their operational economics.

For more information on the project, go to http://www.newfoundlandlng.com.

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