Winning a key approval that will allow construction of the first new liquefied natural gas (LNG) importation facility to serve the East Coast in more than 25 years, Northeast Gateway Energy Bridge LLC, a subsidiary of The Woodlands, TX-based Excelerate Energy LLC, said late Monday it has received its deepwater port license from the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) for the company’s proposed facility to be located 18 miles east of Boston.

The Northeast Gateway Energy Bridge deepwater port, to be located in Massachusetts Bay, will be the world’s second deepwater LNG import facility, following the April 2005 start-up of the Gulf Gateway LNG Energy Bridge deepwater port offshore Louisiana, which is also owned by Excelerate Energy (see Daily GPI, April 7, 2005). Spectra Energy, formerly Duke Energy’s gas assets division, will build a 16-mile subsea pipeline from its existing HubLine, which traverses Massachusetts Bay from Beverly to Weymouth, MA, to the deepwater port site to transfer natural gas from the vessels into New England’s gas pipeline network.

The MARAD approval followed a long planning and application process that began more than three years ago (see Daily GPI, June 8, 2004). Excelerate Energy filed its Northeast Gateway application in May 2005, one month after the company successfully ramped up operations at Gulf Gateway.

Excelerate Energy said it will construct and own the deepwater port, which will be operated by Skaugen Offshore and will accommodate Excelerate’s proprietary Energy Bridge Regasification Vessel (EBRV) fleet operated by Exmar NV. The port’s infrastructure will feature two submerged turret loading buoys supplied by Advanced Production and Loading. With peak deliveries of up to 800 MMcf/d, Northeast Gateway will be able to deliver about 500 MMcf/d of natural gas into the New England market during normal operations, or approximately 20% of that market’s current annual consumption.

Excelerate said construction is slated to begin later this month, which will allow the facility to commence deliveries into Massachusetts and the rest of New England by year’s end.

“The Northeast Gateway deepwater port is another milestone for our company as we continue to expand our LNG operations to supply safe, secure and affordable clean energy to key markets in the U.S. and globally,” said Excelerate Energy CEO Kathleen Eisbrenner. “This facility and others we are developing, along with our expanding fleet, provide us with unparalleled flexibility to serve multiple markets at any given time and make the company a major force in the worldwide LNG market.”

Excelerate Energy also owns a dockside LNG regasification facility, Teesside GasPort, in Teesside, UK. In addition, the company recently increased its LNG vessel fleet position through equity investments in three new EBRVs to be constructed by 2010 (see Daily GPI, April 23). That investment will bring the company’s LNG vessel involvement to eight regasification vessels and one traditional LNG carrier.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to start building this advanced LNG technology that will bring much needed energy to the region in a secure, safe, environmentally sound manner. The Energy Bridge technology — offshore and largely subsea — is the least environmentally disruptive and most secure way to import liquefied natural gas into the United States,” said Rob Bryngelson, an executive vice president with Excelerate Energy. “The fact that we will be ready with a new supply source by this coming winter will mean an additional source of energy for New England as it is facing potential shortfalls in supply.”

Other features of the project include a commitment by Excelerate Energy to employ U.S. mariners on its fleet of LNG ships, something that MARAD said would be beneficial for application approval. Excelerate is working toward a goal of staffing its vessels calling on Northeast Gateway with at least 25% U.S. mariners. The company has been working since 2005 with three U.S. maritime colleges, the Massachusetts and Maine Maritime Academies and Texas A&M University, to place their students and instructors on Excelerate Energy’s ships for training and education purposes. In addition, Excelerate and the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association have reached agreement with Exmar to begin integrating American mariners into the crews of the EBRVs.

“We will have eight cadets sailing on our ships this summer and hope to have at least this many American mariners employed onboard our ships and at our ports by the time Northeast Gateway commences operations” said Jonathan Cook, Excelerate Energy vice president.

In addition, Excelerate Energy is installing an acoustic whale detection system in and around the shipping lanes of Massachusetts Bay leading to Boston Harbor (see Daily GPI, March 22). The system will be able to give near real-time whale location information to maritime traffic traversing the bay. The system will also provide acoustic data from specialized listening buoys installed on the ocean floor.

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