Agency opposes open-loop natural gas terminal

Published 8:41 pm Thursday, September 25, 2008

MOBILE – Federal fisheries officials have recommended that the U.S. Coast Guard deny permission for a liquid natural gas terminal off the Alabama coast that would use millions of gallons of sea water, citing potential threats to marine life.

The terminal proposed by Houston-based TORP Technology would use an open-loop system requiring an average of about 127 million gallons of seawater per day to heat and regasify liquefied natural gas.

In a letter this week, the National Marine Fisheries Service warned the Coast Guard that the open-loop system could kill millions of fish eggs and billions of other microscopic marine organisms, setting back efforts to rebuild populations of red drum, snapper and other fish.

It could also harm commercial and recreational fishing industries trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina and other costs, the agency says.

Company spokesman Joe Berno said Thursday the company continued to defend the open-loop process for this project. He said he didn’t expect the Fisheries Service would support it.

The terminal would accept shiploads of natural gas that has been chilled to minus 260 degrees, turning it into a liquid. The process then would use warm Gulf waters to reheat the liquid back into its gaseous state so it can be pumped into a pipeline.

The terminal would have an average use capacity of 1.2 billion standard cubic feet per day of LNG, with a maximum capacity of 1.4 billion standard cubic feet per day, federal officials say.

The Fisheries Service has recommended the use of a closed-loop regasification system, which uses some natural gas to heat the rest of the product back into gas.

A decision on a federal license for the project will come later.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has until Oct. 10 to announce his decision position on the project. That’s the final day for public comment on the project. Riley has the power to stop the project or approve it with certain conditions.

The only open-loop LNG plant in operation in the Gulf is Excelerate Energy Bridge, near Cameron, La.