The U.S. Coast Guard and Maritime Administration have published a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal offshore Alabama in the Gulf of Mexico proposed by the Norwegian-based firm TORP Technology. The agencies have scheduled a public hearing on the measure for July 25 in Mobile.

The $400 million Bienville Offshore Energy Terminal project calls for a combined offshore receiving and regasification station 63 miles from shore that would allow any LNG ship to offload. It would be located in the federal Outer Continental Shelf waters on Main Pass Block 258 south of Mobile Point, AL, in a water depth of approximately 425 feet.

The deepwater port would be capable of mooring two LNG carriers and processing an average of 1.2 Bcf/d. The regasified LNG would be sent through a new 30-inch undersea pipe to a support platform connected to four existing pipelines. No new onshore pipelines or LNG storage facilities are proposed. With a 30-month construction timetable the sponsors project the start-up of commercial operations in 2010.

The DEIS identified short- and long-term negligible to minor adverse impacts on water resources, marine use, recreation and aesthetics, air quality, safety and geological resources for the proposed project and alternatives, but minor to potentially major impacts on fish habitat and various species. Some mitigation requirements were proposed.

One of the alternatives in the evaluation was for a closed loop gasification system as opposed to the open loop proposed by the sponsors. While a closed loop system on average would cause less damage to water resources and fish habitat, it would carry with it the danger of a spill of a hazardous chemical used in the process. The closed loop also would generate more air pollution caused by the burning of natural gas to vaporize the LNG.

The July 25 meeting will be held at the Mobile convention center. The DEIS and related documents can be accessed at under docket number 24644.

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