Dominion, which owns the Cove Point LNG import terminal in Maryland, is dusting off a 30-year-old plan to deliver LNG to distant storage tanks along the East Coast via specially designed barges.

A spokesman said the plan is still in the preliminary stages but the company has received enough interest to begin examining the logistics of the process and testing the engineering design required for the barges.

“We’re looking at all ways to get more natural gas into the gas-starved Northeast,” said Dominion spokesman Dan Donovan. “When we originally designed Cove Point, that was one of the things that was considered. We are talking to people all along the East Coast to see if there’s any interest in it among the utilities and power generators, basically the people who have facilities close to water.”

LNG barges are not new. In the 1970s liquefied natural gas was delivered to storage tanks in New York City from the Distrigas terminal in Everett, MA. There currently are 50 to 60 LNG storage tanks in the Northeast and most of the receive LNG supply via trucks or liquefy gas that’s delivered via pipeline. About 7,000 trucks per year currently deliver LNG from the Distrigas terminal to storage tanks throughout New England.

Cove Point, which is located more than a mile offshore in the Chesapeake Bay, does not have an LNG trucking system.

“We have two docks at Cove Point and more LNG is coming. I think people don’t realize that there are so many LNG satellite storage and peaking facilities around,” said Donovan.

The barges would be considerably smaller than an LNG tanker and could enter shallow water up to existing storage tanks in harbors or along a plant site. They would carry similar double hulled LNG storage cylinders to those that are carried on LNG trucks today.

“We don’t have any contracts yet, but it’s feasible” and may be a practical way to get gas to power plants that are remote from pipelines or need additional supply due to expansion plans.

“The Northeast is very short on gas right now so more supply is critical,” said Donovan. He said Dominion has been touting the plan at several conferences, including the LDC Forum this week in Atlanta.

“It was originally conceived that we would deliver LNG both north and south via barge from our terminal in the Chesapeake Bay. It’s an ideal location for that,” he said. “We belive that there is a going to be a natural gas supply crisis in the Northeast if we don’t find ways to get more gas there. This looks like to us one of many possible solutions.”

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