North America LNG / LPG News
New Jersey Weighing In on Proposed Sea Island for LNG
by Jacqueline L. Urgo The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 12, 2007
You wouldn't be able to see them from the beach in Sandy Hook, N.J. -- tanker ships as long as a 100-story building is high, pulling up to the deepwater docks.
Nineteen miles off the New Jersey coast, a New York energy-investment firm is proposing to build a $1.8 billion, nearly 60-acre industrial island to serve as a terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Officials in New Jersey, concerned that the island might jeopardize the state's 127-mile coast and the $21 billion it generates in tourism each year, last weekend won a voice on whether the Atlantic Sea Island Group's plan for the artificial island is built.
The Coast Guard and the U.S. Maritime Administration, which will decide whether to approve the island, designated New Jersey an "adjacent coastal state" for the project's application.
That designation, sought by Gov. Corzine and other officials, allows the state to review and comment on the proposal. It also gives New Jersey the chance to hold at least one public hearing, allowing citizens to weigh in.
"This was the right decision, and it means that New Jersey now gets a seat at the table in determining the future of this island," U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) said. "The potential impact of this facility on our state and our region could be enormous."
There are only five LNG terminals in the United States. The only offshore terminal is 116 miles off Louisiana.
Almost three dozen applications for terminals, including two on the Delaware River, are pending.
The terminals would boost the nation's supply of natural gas at a time when increasing demand is squeezing North American sources.
Energy giant BP plans a $600 million LNG terminal on the Delaware in Logan Township, Gloucester County. The project has received preliminary federal approval, but remains stalled by litigation.
Philadelphia Gas Works also has proposed an LNG terminal on the Delaware, in the Port Richmond section. The utility broke off talks with Hess LNG in March to develop the terminal, but says it still wants to build one.
LNG is natural gas cooled to minus-260 degrees, making it liquid and economical to be shipped from Russia, Algeria, Trinidad and other countries.
The LNG industry claims a perfect 40-year safety record. Still, homeland-security experts are concerned that tankers could become terrorist targets. A leak could cause a vast, flammable vapor cloud.
Most proposals for LNG terminals on land, including the two along the Delaware, have generated fierce opposition because of those concerns. An ocean island might fare better, its supporters believe.
The island would be due east of Sandy Hook, a windswept Monmouth County peninsula that is home to a national park, a military base and a lighthouse.
Howard Bowers, chairman of Atlantic Sea Island Group, said last week that he had hoped to keep New Jersey out of his company's application so the process would be less complicated.
Bowers, 67, said he already had spent about $10 million on the application. He said he loved the sea and believed the project would be safe for the environment and benefit the economy of the New York and New Jersey region.
"I've been a fisherman for 55 years," Bowers said by telephone from his office in Manhattan's Chrysler Building. "I've lived on the water all my life. I have the skin-cancer scars to prove it.
"I see what we are trying to do out there as helping the environment. We're building a marine sanctuary with the island, where species can begin to regenerate while we are creating an energy solution for the region that could lower costs for consumers and reduce the emissions of methane gas into the atmosphere by transporting natural gas in a more efficient way."
The island would be constructed on the open sea, between two international shipping lanes.
Most of the region's natural gas arrives through pipelines from the South. LNG shipped in huge tanker ships, proponents say, is cheaper and more environmentally sound.
Not everyone agrees.
Four New York legislators from Nassau County have called on Gov. Eliot Spitzer to oppose the island.
The island, to be called Safe Harbor Energy, would be about six times of the size of Giants Stadium, sitting on the ocean floor in about 60 feet of water. It would have a 20-foot-thick foundation of rock and at least 11 million cubic yards of dredged sand and gravel.
With its armored breakwaters and prefabricated caissons, the island could weather a 200-year storm, its backers say.
The island would cover 116 acres on the ocean floor, tapering to 56 acres on the surface, according to the application.
It would include a deepwater docking area for as many as five 1,000-foot-long tankers, which would unload their cargo into four storage tanks, each holding 180,000 cubic meters of LNG.
The product would be transported to New York via an undersea pipeline.
Bower hopes to have the island in business by 2014.
Environmentalists say the island would permanently harm marine life and the undersea landscape and could become a prime terrorist target. They say a leak or explosion would be an environmental catastrophe.
"It may be a way of bringing a lot of natural gas into the Northeast, but it is also a way of creating a lot of potential hazards," said Paul Falkowski, professor of marine and geological sciences at Rutgers University, who has called the island "an accident waiting to happen."
Copyright (c) 2007, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
Safe Harbor Energy
Atlantic Sea Island Group LLC
offshore New York & New Jersey, NJ United States