Australia-based Woodside Natural Gas announced Monday it plans to be the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipper committed to using United States-flagged tankers in its proposed project for bringing supplies ashore through an underwater pipeline to a receipt point near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Woodside expects its proposed project to formally begin local and federal permitting in the next few weeks, a Santa Monica, CA-based spokesperson told NGI Tuesday.

Woodside and the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) jointly announced Monday they reached an agreement on the flagging of the ships, which for the company will be regasification vessels that transport LNG shipments to a submerged pipeline hookup where it will be shipped in a gaseous state to an onshore connection with Southern California Gas Co.’s transmission pipeline network.

Noting that the company had worked closely with MARAD on the flagging issue for its offshore OceanWay project, Woodside U.S. President Steve Larson said the U.S. flagging is “consistent with [our] commitment to the highest level of safety and security for our project.”

With the latest action, Woodside commits to employing licensed U.S. citizen crews on the regasification ships, and “providing training and opportunities for U.S. mariners,” said Larson, noting that the Aussie company has committed to work with the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and state maritime academies as part of this effort.

Woodside now expects the actionable permitting agencies for its project, the City of Los Angeles and the U.S. Coast Guard, to deem the company’s LNG applications fully complete at some time in August, kicking off what is expected to be a one-year review process at MARAD and perhaps a little longer at the local level, the company spokesperson told NGI.

None of the ships, however, will begin construction until the project is further along and supplies are locked up. As a large developer of LNG supplies in Western Australia, Woodside could conceivably bring supplies from its liquefaction process exclusively, but that has not been determined yet.

“We have an abundant supply of natural gas, and just recently the [Perth-based] Woodside corporate board approved a 100% Woodside-owned LNG liquefaction project off the western coast of Australia,” said the company’s U.S. spokesperson, who noted Woodside has “various supplies coming out of Australia and can pick up spot market cargoes, too.”

The OceanWay project calls for two submerged regasification hookup buoys about 28 miles offshore southwest out in the Pacific from the onshore interconnection site near LAX. Woodside is touting its proposal as more “environmentally sensitive, safe and secure,” given rejection earlier this year of two more advanced LNG proposals — one offshore by BHP Billiton, and the other in Long Beach Harbor by a joint venture of Mitsubishi and ConocoPhillips.

Larson, the former executive director at the California Public Utilities Commission, took over the lead role for Woodside two months ago after the former top U.S-based executive, Jane Cutler, was promoted to another senior executive position back in her native Australia.

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