We’ve been tracking the story of a coming $800 million LNG export plant that will be built in rural northeastern Pennsylvania (see Big News! Marcellus LNG Export Plant Coming to Landlocked NEPA). Two days ago we shared the news that some of the Marcellus molecules from the plant will go to Puerto Rico to power electric plants (see PA Marcellus Gas to Power Electric Plant in…Puerto Rico?!). But between northeast PA and Puerto Rico, somewhere, somehow the LNG must get loaded onto a ship. Where will that happen? We think we know.
New Fortress has only said the location of the LNG export port where they will ship from is ~195 miles from Wylausing. We figured it would have to be a port along the Delaware River on the PA side of the river. However, the Delaware News Journal has done some sleuthing and believes they know where the location actually is–a port in New Jersey.
New Fortress owns property in Gloucester County, NJ along the Delaware. It’s a former DuPont dynamite factory! Three years ago, New Fortress proposed a fuel terminal and port for the property.
There have been job postings for the site going back to last fall, including one for a “construction engineer with expertise in LNG.” The job has apparently been filed (“Applications no longer accepted”).
Enter the Sierra Club and the always titillating Jeff Tittel, who paints nightmare scenarios if such a port is allowed on the Delaware. You see, the LNG would have to sail through Delaware Bay, past the cities of New Castle and Wilmington, and pass under the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Old Jeff says all it would take is for someone to toss a hand grenade off the bridge onto an LNG tanker and that sucker would blow up taking “half of Wilmington with it.” Utter nonsense, but it fools the feeble-minded supporters of the Sierra Club.
No wonder New Fortress will neither confirm nor deny where the port will be located. As soon as they do, they will face a barrage of attacks from Big Green, including lawsuits.
A New York energy company plans to build a liquified natural gas port on the Delaware River near the First State, according to a recent securities filing.
It is the latest proposal for a long-controversial idea to allow cargo ships containing the condensed, liquid version of the combustible fuel to sail through Delaware Bay, past New Castle and Wilmington and under the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
The company, New Fortress Energy, did not disclose the specific location for the proposed LNG port, but said it would be along the Delaware River and 195 miles from its natural gas liquifying facility northwest of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
A number of ports near or in Delaware roughly match that description, including those in Wilmington and Chester and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. But the evidence points to New Jersey.
Three years ago, New Fortress Energy proposed a fuel terminal and port for a property it owns in Gloucester County, New Jersey – one that for decades had been home to a DuPont dynamite factory.
At the time, environmentalists from the Sierra Club suspected that the company had plans to bring LNG ships into a port there, even though the company publicly backed away from any such idea in 2016 amid opposition from residents.
In recent months, several postings for job openings located at the New Jersey site have appeared online, including for a construction engineer with expertise in LNG.
New Fortress Energy, which became publicly traded in January, did not reply to a request to comment. Greenwich Township, New Jersey, officials also did not reply to requests.
An artist rendering of a proposed fuel terminal and port near Greenwich Township, New Jersey. (Photo: Greenwich Township, New Jersey)
“Tanker trucks will transport LNG from our liquefier (in Pennsylvania) to a port on the Delaware River, at which point LNG will be transloaded directly to large marine vessels,” New Fortress Energy said in its January filing. “There is approximately a five-day sail time from a Delaware River port to our downstream terminals in the Caribbean.”
Ultimately, New Fortress Energy could have the capacity to export more than 7 million gallons of LNG a day.
New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said that plan would disrupt bridge traffic, damage the marine ecosystem and place potentially explosive ships close to densely populated areas in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
“Somebody could drop a hand grenade onto a tanker from the Delaware Memorial Bridge and blow up half of Wilmington,” he said.
While there haven’t been significant explosions from tankers, LNG land-based tanks have exploded with catastrophic results in the past. A rigorous regulatory regime exists as a result, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says on its website.
LNG operators must review operating procedures whenever a piece of equipment is modified, and workers must be trained in security and firefighting.
“Additionally, federal regulations require tight security for the facility, including controlled access, communications systems, enclosure monitoring and patrols,” the agency says.
Tittle argues that bringing LNG ships up the Delaware involves too much risk with too many unknowns.
“The precautionary principle is do no harm,” he said. “Even if it’s one in a million, it’s not worth the risk.”
Call in the National Guard
For many who live in Delaware, such LNG proposals bring memories of New Jersey’s and Delaware’s last territorial dispute.
In 2005, a fight erupted between the two states over British Petroleum’s then-proposal to build a $500 million LNG import facility near Logan Township, New Jersey – just across the river from Claymont.
Under the plan, New Jersey would have built a delivery pier that jutted into Delaware’s territorial waters.
While New Jersey saw jobs and economic development, Delawareans feared potential explosions of the condensed fuel, particularly with the attacks of 9/11 still fresh in people’s minds.
A study commissioned by the Department of Energy before the dispute contributed to fears as it found that a fire aboard an LNG tanker would be intense enough to cause skin blisters 1.3 miles away – a distance great enough to reach Delaware homes.
“The concerns had to do with safety,” Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington, said. “They’ll tell you that the (ships) are safe until one of them goes.”
In 2006, McDowell co-sponsored a bill, likely in jest, that would have authorized then-Gov. Ruth Ann Miner to send the Delaware National Guard across the river to physically block construction of the port’s bulkheads and piers.
By 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, ruling that Delaware’s laws could, in fact, prevent the plan from progressing. In front of the court, state attorneys had argued that New Jersey wrongly claimed authority over a large chunk of the Delaware River in order to benefit a multinational company.
Global energy markets shifted during the following decade, causing LNG projects to morph from importing the fuel to exporting it, as vast reserves in Pennsylvania and other states were tapped with hydraulic fracturing technology, or fracking.
Still, McDowell said there may be similar concerns with New Fortress Energy’s plan as with the previous one, particularly related to ships passing under the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
This time, though, Delaware won’t likely be able to intervene.
If the company builds an LNG port at the shuttered DuPont plant in New Jersey as the evidence appears to indicate, it will sit upstream of Delaware and outside of it regulatory grip.
LNG already is in Delaware
LNG packs a concentrated amount of energy within an enclosed space because it is cooled to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit, occupying 1/600th of the volume of its gaseous form.
The storage advantages have caused companies along the Delaware River for decades to capitalize on its benefits at a handful of sites.
Delmarva Power recently announced a plan to build a $40 million, 500,000-gallon LNG storage facility at its property in Red Lion. Next door is a Bloom Energy fuel cell farm that converts natural gas into electricity.
Delmarva has maintained another LNG storage facility south of Wilmington for decades.
Such storage allows Delmarva to maintain a supply of gas for customers during the coldest days of the year while avoiding spiking energy costs that occur during such high-demand periods, Delmarva spokesman Jacob Sneeden said.
The company is in ongoing discussions with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to obtain a permit through the state’s Coastal Zone Act, he said.
“We design our facilities to be safe, secure and reliable. We have safely and reliably operated our natural gas storage tank in Wilmington without incident for 47 years,” Sneeden said.*
*Wilmington (DE) Delaware News Journal (Mar 2, 2019) – Energy company says it’s bringing LNG port to the Delaware River
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