The use of so-called “conservative assumptions” in the study done for FERC on LNG tanker safety has resulted in “unrealistic potential consequences that may unduly alarm the public,” the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (CLNG) said last week.

The purpose of the study was to identify appropriate models and methodologies for estimating the potential consequences of LNG spills from tankers, but according to CLNG, it failed to measure up because it did not include analysis using the latest science and technical advances, the group said.

CLNG’s comments were among many others filed in response to the study by ABS Consulting that was commissioned by FERC. The study is titled “Consequence Assessment Methods for Incidents Involving Releases from Liquefied Natural Gas Carriers” (AD04-6) (see Daily GPI, June 2). CLNG is made up of the major natural gas trade associations, including the American Gas Association, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the Natural Gas Supply Association, and the American Petroleum Institute.

“Our technical concerns focus on shortcomings of the ABS modeling of the rate of release of LNG from a hole in a carrier, the spread of an LNG pool on water, thermal radiation and vapor dispersion calculations…,” CLNG said.

The group pointed to the 40 years of LNG operations, including more than 35,000 cargo deliveries with no LNG cargo tank failure, noting that “the scale of fires or vapor clouds studied in the report have never occurred.”

LNG tankers incorporate multiple layers of protection. For instance, the distance from the outer to the inner hull of the double-hulled vessels is six to 10 feet. Beyond that any foreign object also would have to puncture the cargo tank.

CLNG pointed out that cargo areas and piping are segregated and LNG systems require the use of special materials and advanced control systems, alarms and emergency shutdown devices, as well as vessel fire protection systems. All personnel undergo extensive safety training, and LNG vessel operations are closely monitored by authorities.

Weaver’s Cove Energy, the sponsors of a proposed LNG import terminal in Fall River, MA, said the FERC-sponsored report “has been a lightning rod for public opinion, much of it uninformed. The media, politicians and the public have almost uniformly responded by highlighting (mostly out of context) the more alarming statements set forth in the ABS study. While these statements and concerns are largely qualified by ABS in the ABS study, the qualifications are not reflected in the press reports.”

Weaver’s Cover Energy pointed out there was no peer review of the ABS study, “which would almost certainly have led to the elimination of errors…” Also, the study only skimmed the surface of another important study, using the executive summary but not the follow-up detailed report prepared by Quest in October 2003 modeling the potential for spills in Boston Harbor. “ABS also appeared to ignore the well-publicized reports on the Gas Fountain and Limburg incidents, both of which involved double-hulled tankers.”

Going beyond the ABS study, the Boston Fire Department said FERC should consider the potential for escalating failure and additional damage to a ship and surrounding property that might occur from the release of LNG from a tanker. Failure of one LNG tank that involved a fire could cause damage and fire in additional tanks, the ship itself, surrounding structures and people, according to the filing authored by Joseph M. Fleming, deputy chief of the Boston Fire Department.

Fleming criticized FERC’s existing standards for heat levels resulting from a potential facilities fire, saying they are too high to adequately protect the public. He criticized the National Fire Protection Association code itself, whose code 59A FERC uses, saying the provisions for LNG were written by a committee that included industry and government but did not have representation from the fire service. The use of industry codes “creates a false sense of security,” Fleming said.

The Boston Fire Department official cites the ABS study’s distance limit of 2,800 to 4,600 feet from a fire for serious property damage and loss of life, noting it could reach that limit in three minutes. “How are public safety agencies in Boston supposed to evacuate an area within three minutes, which in Boston, due to the narrow channel could involve hundreds of buildings and thousands of people?” He said there could be as many as 10,000 fatalities if adjacent buildings caught fire.

©Copyright 2004 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.