If at least one more liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving facility is built on the West Coast of North America, it won’t have the same impact as an interstate pipeline in terms of steady, added daily supply. Capacities will vary seasonally and among multi-year periods, according to a western natural gas expert speaking at the Law Seminars International conference Tuesday in San Francisco.
Facilities such as the existing Sempra Energy Costa Azul terminal in North Baja California, Mexico, and new ones like the proposed Bradwood Landing in Oregon will have highly variable capacities over time depending on global and domestic gas availability/price factors, consultant David Maul told NGI during the second day of the two-day “Energy in California” conference.
A former California Energy Commission gas expert and adviser to the panel’s vice chairperson, Maul made a case for LNG being viable in the West in the midst of lower prices and more plentiful domestic supplies in the United States and Canada. He thinks the analyses will look at new gas supplies’ economic viability in comparison to coal-fired power generation — not by comparing potential LNG imports to domestic pipeline gas prices at any given period of time.
Nevertheless, Maul ran down a list of nearly a dozen proposed western LNG projects and only one is really moving ahead at this time — NorthernStar Natural Gas’ Bradwood Landing proposal along the Oregon side of the Columbia River, which received a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval last Thursday with more than 100 conditions attached (see Daily GPI, Sept. 19).
Maul noted that three separate offshore LNG projects proposed for Southern California are all in a state of limbo — two put on hold to await what will happen with the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rules, and a third (with which he is involved as a consultant), Esperanaza Energy, trying to secure more financial backing before it goes forward with the siting process, which can eat up millions of dollars. Even Sempra’s Costa Azul will not receive regular commercial shipments of LNG before the first quarter next year, Maul said.
With what he called “very minor pipeline connections in California,” Maul said the Sempra terminal “will not add much capacity to California, but it adds another supply source to the Southwest” through it connection to interstate pipelines in Arizona.
Maul called the Jordan Cove and Bradwood projects in Oregon the “interesting ones.” Jordan Cove, along the Pacific Coast at Coos Bay, OR, has a draft environmental impact report from FERC that he characterized as having a seeming green light from the federal regulators’ standpoint, even though it is located near an airport runway and involves a 300-mile pipeline connecting it with existing interstate lines serving California and the Pacific Northwest. “This is what causes people to say FERC has ‘never found an LNG project it doesn’t like,'” Maul said.
In praising a proposed policy before California regulators that would not make a distinction between sources of gas, whether from LNG or new pipeline supplies, Maul said, “California is going to continue to use a lot of natural gas [particularly with GHG emission regulations] and LNG can help contain the price we pay for natural gas. LNG offers an opportunity for price constraints on what we pay.”
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