Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Another LNG port proposed in Santa Monica Bay

Despite the political firestorms surrounding existing proposals to build Liquefied Natural Gas facilities in California (it seem's they're all we're talking about lately!), Australian company Woodside decided they want to plop their property smack in the middle of L.A.'s South Bay.

The project site — in the 3,000-foot-deep Santa Monica Basin, about 22 miles from both Point Dume in Malibu and the northern tip of Santa Catalina Island — does not interfere with shipping lanes, ferry routes, nature preserves or military exercise zones, Cutler said. The undersea pipeline would come ashore at Los Angeles International Airport.

Woodside expects to file applications with state and federal regulatory agencies in the next 60 days. If it gets the needed approvals, Woodside could begin importing an average of 800 million cubic feet a day of natural gas by 2011, providing enough fuel to supply as much as 15% of the state's market for home heating, heavy industry and electricity generation, Cutler said.

The plan is similar to a proposal by another Australian company, BHP Billiton, to put a floating liquefied natural gas terminal in the ocean 21 miles off Port Hueneme in Ventura County. However, the BHP plan would require a permanent offshore regasification facility, where the super-cooled liquid is turned back into gas.

Environmentalists are fighting the BHP proposal, questioning its safety and whether there will be enough demand for the gas.

But if California eventually decides to import liquefied natural gas, then the Woodside proposal might make sense, said Susan Jordan of the California Coastal Protection Network in Santa Barbara.

"If we import, the next technology should be the safest and carry the least environmental footprint," Jordan said.

Other proposals include building land-based plants in Long Beach and northern Mexico and retrofitting a mothballed oil platform off of Oxnard for a liquefied natural gas facility.

Although the LNG industry has had a generally strong safety record, some officials worry about putting a potentially dangerous regasification plant in an urban setting such as Long Beach.