Joining the ever-growing list of proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals aimed at serving U.S. markets, BP threw its hat into the crowded ring Thursday, announcing a planned terminal for southern New Jersey.

The energy giant said it submitted an application Thursday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to construct and operate its estimated $500 million Crown Landing facility, which it hopes will begin operation in 2008. BP said that Crown Landing will have a daily sendout capacity of 1.2 Bcf, enough natural gas to supply the needs of five million homes a day. The facility will have a short-term peaking capability of up to 1.4 Bcf/d.

Under current plans, BP said that an LNG vessel will arrive up the Delaware River approximately once every three days, or about 100 ships per year. LNG ships will berth at a newly-built dedicated pier, linked by a channel to the Marcus Hook Anchorage in the Delaware River. Facility construction will not require deepening the Delaware River Shipping Channel, although some dredging will be required to create the new berth.

Crown Landing joins a list of more than 30 proposed terminals for North America and the Bahamas. It seeks to join the currently elite list of five operating terminals: Southern LNG’s Elba Island terminal in Georgia; The Trunkline LNG terminal in Lake Charles, LA; Dominion’s Cove Point terminal in Maryland; Tractebel’s terminal in Everett, MA; and EcoElectica’s terminal in Guayanilla Bay, Puerto Rico.

To be located in Logan Township, Gloucester County, between Route 130 and the Delaware River, Crown Landing will consist of marine facilities to receive and unload LNG tankers. BP said the facilities will include three LNG storage tanks, re-gasification units and connections to at least three major natural gas pipeline systems that supply the Northeast.

Each storage tank will hold 150,000 cubic meters (3.5 Bcf) with nitrogen injection for blending and flexibility. The pier will be designed to dock ships with capacities of up to 200,000 cubic meters (4.6 Bcf). The tanks will be five and one half feet thick and are essentially “tanks-within-tanks,” the company said. The facility will also have continuous monitoring systems, emergency shut-down equipment and mandated protection-safety zones.

The Crown Landing facilities, which will be located within a largely undeveloped industrial corridor, will use only 40 acres of the 175 acre site. The company also noted that the impact on wetlands has been minimized by the facility’s location.

“This investment will bring a dedicated supply of natural gas to homes and industry in the area via the local pipelines, as well as taxes, jobs and an improvement in the overall economic competitiveness to the region,” said Lauren Segal, BP’s Crown Landing project manager. “There is an obvious growing demand in the area for clean burning natural gas, and constrained supplies have limited the industry’s ability to respond, resulting at times in sharp price rises. Additional supplies of natural gas from Crown Landing should help stabilize the supply-demand balance in the region.”

Outlining the need for the project, BP noted that demand for natural gas in the northeastern United States region is expected to grow by more than 10% over the next five years, adding that the region currently relies on other areas for its supply. The company added that domestic gas production is not keeping up with demand growth across the country.

In addition to FERC approval, BP said it will also seek input from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Transportation, the Office of Pipeline Safety and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. There will also be a number of state and local agencies involved. As part of the application review process, stakeholders, including community groups and representatives, will be able to provide comments on the project.

“We’ve talked to a lot of local people including emergency responders and the Community Advisory Panel for Gloucester County,” said BP spokesman Neil Chapman. “We couldn’t have asked for a better reception. People have been very interested in the project and have asked very good questions. We are very pleased with the discussions so far and obviously we are prepared to sit down with any of the groups that are interested in the project.”

The new project proposal comes just months after BP dropped its option to purchase land in Tampa, FL for a similar LNG import terminal.

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