2006 November 28
By BARB RAYNER
ST. ANDREWS The Save Passamaquoddy Bay 3-Nation Alliance (SPB) is accusing the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of giving out misleading information about liquefied natural gas (LNG).
SPB, an organization made up of citizens and governments around Passamaquoddy Bay who are opposed to any LNG developments in the bay, has taken FERC to task on three LNG safety issues in three separate press releases issued at the weekend.
The group claims the federal agency has been hiding LNG hazards from the public for nearly 30 years, has been disseminating misleading LNG safety information to the public while encouraging LNG developers to do the same thing, and has been ignoring LNG-industry world standards.
The releases detail how FERC, according to SPB, has known since 1978 that unconfined LNG [vapours] can explode while at the same time claiming that it can’t; has been publishing misleading safety information regarding the cryogenic (freezing), asphyxiation, combustion and explosion hazards of LNG vapours; has encouraged LNG developers to similarly misrepresent safety information to the public, and has ignored an offer from the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO) to assist them with safety issues.
SPB takes issue with the fact that FERC states that LNG vapour will combust only within a narrow gas-to-air mixture, and say, in truth, gasoline and propane have significantly narrower ranges of flammability than does LNG vapour.
SPB webmaster and researcher Robert Godfrey says, “FERC’s publishing of LNG combustibility information in isolation gives the impression that the range is narrow, improbable, and safe. The vapour-to-air mixture required for gasoline combustion is significantly narrower than is required for LNG vapour, and the public is generally aware that gasoline vapours are unsafe.
“Also, when LNG evapourates, it grows in volume by 600 times. Gasoline expands only about 20 times. Thus, the same volume of LNG creates a vapour cloud that is 30 times larger than gasoline. The public’s lack of familiarity with LNG and its properties, as well as the public’s lack of familiarity with other hydrocarbon flammability details, results in FERC giving the public a false impression regarding LNG safety.”
Godfrey went on to point out that FERC minimizes the cryogenic (freezing), asphyxiation, and combustion hazards of LNG vapours. He said FERC states that LNG vapours begin to rise when they warm above -160° F.
“What FERC avoids stating is that LNG vapours don’t begin to rise until they warm by 100° F above the -260 F temperature of LNG’s liquified state.
“In other words, LNG vapours cling to the earth’s surface, are carried near its surface by any existing wind, and can be blown for miles, presenting multiple serious hazards cryogenic, asphyxiation, fire, and explosion, until they heat up by 100° F or are diluted sufficiently by the atmosphere.”
He said FERC’s misbehaviour in these matters, as well as FERC’s policy of ignoring LNG developers’ lack of veracity, implicitly encourages LNG developers to mimic FERC in misrepresenting the truth to the public.
SPB is insisting that FERC discontinue providing isolated statements regarding LNG vapours that the general public are likely to misinterpret.
They are also further requesting that Congress require FERC, when providing combustibility of LNG vapour information, to include LNG air-to-vapour combustion requirements and combustibility range along with the air-to-vapour requirements and combustibility range for gasoline and propane.
SPB says FERC has also continued to publish that unconfined LNG vapour will not explode even though it has known otherwise since 1978. They say the Sandia National Laboratories’ Dec 21, 2004 report to FERC disclosed that US Coast Guard research proved in 1978 that confined LNG vapour can explode.
Godfrey says, “FERC says that their primary interest is safety. FERC also claims that unconfined LNG vapour cannot explode. Save Passamaquoddy Bay has discovered that FERC has known about explosive unconfined LNG vapour since 1978 and was even reminded of it by the Sandia National Laboratories report to FERC in 2004.
“The Coast Guard research demonstrating six percent propane-content LNG vapour explosion, as well as subsequent research demonstrating one percent ethane-content LNG vapour explosion, was also referred to in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, in November 2005.
He says the gas industry is promoting importing “hot” (more flammable, and potentially more explosive) LNG, in order to make LNG importation more profitable.
This push especially after an LNG terminal has been permitted and built may result in more LNG being imported with explosive characteristics similar to, or exceeding, the gas used in the 1978 LNG vapour-explosion study, says Godfrey.
LNG with high propane and ethane content is commonly shipped to other countries. At the same time, he said, FERC has been universally claiming that unconfined LNG vapour cannot explode.
“This ‘explodes’ FERC’s LNG ‘safe’ vapour and LNG safety myths. FERC has been hiding this safety issue for nearly 30 years, and it is time for Congress to hold them accountable.
“What’s more it calls into question all of FERC’s recent permitting of LNG terminals and storage facilities, since unconfined LNG vapour explosions may not have been properly considered in the permitting process for each of those projects. FERC’s lack of honesty has come around and bit them hard on the behind.”
SPB is insisting that FERC cease perpetuating this “non-exploding LNG vapour” myth, and that FERC publish in a way that does not minimize its seriousness information stating that unconfined LNG vapour can explode, and under what circumstances it can explode, as confirmed by the US Coast Guard research.
Since LNG developers in the Passamaquoddy Bay area have repeated the non-explosive vapour myth to the local public in order to further their LNG terminal projects, SPB is also requesting that Congress, through proscriptive legislation with significant penalties, require that the LNG industry cease spreading this fraudulent myth in their quest for public support.
SPB says they have learned that FERC has been ignoring best practices standards that have been established over the past 30 years by the LNG industry.
The non-profit organization that has established these standards is the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO), based in the United Kingdom, and over 90 per cent of the world’s LNG capacity are members of this organization.
SPB discovered that SIGTTO sent a letter to FERC in 2004, offering its assistance to FERC in any way possible, but so far, FERC has ignored that offer.
At the same time, FERC has been inundated with LNG terminal and storage applications, has issued permits for several, and has around 40 LNG projects in progress.
SPB believes that by ignoring LNG-industry world standards and SIGTTO’s offer of assistance, FERC is negligently placing the American public and the American energy industry at risk.
Therefore, SPB is requesting that Congress conduct formal hearings to hold FERC accountable for its negligence, and asks Congress to enact legislation that requires FERC to abide by SIGTTO LNG and other SIGTTO gas-industry standards.
SPB claims that FERC has failed in its obligation to protect the public and public assets. They also say that LNG terminals recently permitted by FERC may not have been licensed property since the agency failed to account for the true explosive nature of unconfined LNG vapours when evaluating each of these projects.
Since FERC is an independent federal agency with no apparent oversight by any other government agency, SPB is demanding that Congress conduct hearings to hold FERC accountable for its misdeeds, and suggests that Congress enact legislation to both correct the lack of oversight and to include a public safety advocate on the FERC commission.
Although FERC is an agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), when FERC misbehaves, the only apparent recourse is the courts and Congressional legislation, said Godfrey, and, although it is FERC’s responsibility to be honest and truthful with the public, and to present information in ways that are not deceptive or misleading, FERC has not been abiding by that responsibility.
Godfrey said, “The result has been damage to the credibility of FERC, the FERC permitting process, the DOE, American energy infrastructure, and the US Government. It has generated mistrust among the public, and rightly so.”
SPB is suggesting that it is time for Congress to hold hearings regarding FERC’s violation of the public trust, and to put into place a FERC Commission that includes proactive interests of public safety. “The American public has the right to demand that FERC be held accountable for its misbehavior, and to insist that Congress set right an agency that has gone wrong.”
© 2006 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.
The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB