Seeking to diversify away from its reliance on imported petroleum products, Honolulu-based Hawaii Gas last Thursday filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the mainland. State and other regulatory approvals also are being sought.

LNG would serve as an emergency back-up fuel for the island state's gas utility, which manufacturers and distributes synthetic natural gas (SNG) from petroleum products and propane, serving Oahu and the state's six primary islands.

The utility, part of The Gas Company LLC, plans to begin importing LNG from an unspecified part of the continental United States by the end of this year in conventional insulated intermodal containers. The natural gas would be used if there is a disruption in the normal SNG/propane supply chain, said Jeff Kissel, CEO of The Gas Company.

Hawaii Gas is seeking to initiate the first of three phases of a program to make greater use of natural gas. Hawaii has no naturally occurring fossil fuel resources, relying on imported petroleum to meet all of its energy needs. In 2011, the state reportedly imported 42 million barrels of crude oil and 4 million barrels of finished petroleum products.

"Hawaii Gas is pursuing the use of natural gas to diversify its fuel supply and improve energy security," said a spokesperson for the utility, which makes most of Honolulu's gas from naphtha feedstock supplied by the Tesoro Kapolei Refinery, located adjacent to the utility SNG plant on Oahu.

"Performance issues with the Hawaii-based refineries and previously announced intentions to sell the Tesoro Kapolei Refinery, along with Tesoro's other Hawaii assets, emphasizes the importance of fuel supply diversification," the spokesperson said. Currently 95% of the petroleum products used in Hawaii come from foreign nations.

Natural gas is an alternative fuel available today that Hawaii hopes to use to diversify its fuel supply mix and lower energy costs, Kissel said. "It also supports the state's clean energy goals for having 70% of its energy come from clean sources by 2030 -- 40% from locally generated renewable energy, and 30% from efficiency measures."

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