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"For much of the state of Maine, the environment is the economy"
                                           — US Senator Susan Collins, 2012 Jun 21



 

Latest News


2015 February 2

New England

FERC denies rehearing request on Algonquin pipeline expansion (Jan 29) — Lohud, USA Today

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has rejected opponents' request to revisit its approval of the controversial Algonquin natural pipeline expansion project.

The decision was a blow to northern Westchester community members who have been trying to reverse the federal approval, citing, among other concerns, their belief that the pipeline is too close to the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan.

Opponents — including Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion and Riverkeeper — argued in their rehearing request that the commission improperly relied on a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's report that concluded that a potential rupture of the proposed pipeline poses no threat to the safe operation or safe shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear plant. An independent analysis should have been conducted based on the challenges posed by the project, they said.

"While local municipalities and residents were waiting for FERC's decision, Spectra was allowed to seize private property by eminent domain and proceed with destruction of homes, roads, and parklands," [Courtney Williams of Peekskill, vice president of Safe Energy Rights Group] said.

Northeast

FERC won't reverse $971M pipeline project approval (Jan 29) — Law 360 [Paid subscription]

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday refused to rescind its approval of a $971 million gas pipeline project running through New York to New England and rejected a bid by environmental groups and others to block project work until administrative and judicial challenges to FERC's... [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Gulf of Mexico

UPDATE 1-Landmark U.S. LNG exports delayed to late February, March (Jan 14) — Reuters

The long-awaited first liquefied natural gas exports from the lower 48 U.S. states will have to wait another month or two due to mechanical problems at the Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana, Cheniere Energy Partners LP said Thursday.

Cheniere said it expects to export the first cargo from the plant in late February or March. The company had expected that cargo to leave port in late January.

Instrumentation issues … were discovered during the final phases of plant commissioning and a cool down is required for some additional work over the next few weeks, the company said.

Alaska

Alaska LNG snatches up land, buoying a local economy (Jan 31) — Alaska Dispatch News, Anchorage, AK

The three oil company partners in the $55 billion Alaska LNG project have acquired more than 150 tracts of land on the Kenai Peninsula as they piece together an expanse that could one day house a massive plant and shoreside facility where liquefied natural gas would be processed and exported.

The tracts acquired by ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips range from 40-acre swaths in the woods near Nikiski to lots with homes, a patchwork of parcels amounting to 571 acres with an assessed valuation of almost $30 million, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough records.

If the costly project is ever approved, plans call for the construction of a liquefaction facility at the site where the Kenai Spur Highway runs near a bluff overlooking Cook Inlet, about 80 miles southwest of Anchorage. Some 2.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas would be super-chilled into a liquid each day, with the fuel shipped overseas in oceangoing tankers. If used locally instead of the hope of exporting to Asia, the daily output would meet almost two weeks' worth of demand in the Cook Inlet region during an average year.

A flood of LNG export facilities under development around the world and low LNG prices have increased the uncertainty surrounding a project that will cost each partner more than $10 billion to construct.

Alaska LNG faces ‘significant economic headwinds’ (Jan 30) — KTOO Public Media, Juneau, AK

As if lawmakers don’t have enough on their plates trying to close a $3.5 billion budget hole, this week brought a reminder that the state is also trying to advance a natural gas gigaproject.

That would be Alaska LNG, the effort to build a pipeline from the North Slope to Cook Inlet.

“The governor has identified a list of agreements he would like to see completed before the special session,” he said. “This will be a very difficult task to accomplish.”

“How likely is this project to happen at this point, would you say?” [Senator Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage] asked.

“I’m hesitant to put a number on it, since I’ve been working on this since 1992,” replied ExxonMobil’s Bill McMahon.

British Columbia

Pacific NorthWest LNG leases downtown Vancouver office space (Jan 29) — EnergeticCity.ca

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The Malaysian oil and gas giant behind a planned multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas plant in the Prince Rupert area, has sent out yet another signal it may be on the verge of moving forward with the project.

Pacific NorthWest LNG — the consortium led by Petronas — is increasing its downtown business footprint in Vancouver, and has confirmed it has leased two floors of office space at the 35-storey Park Place tower.

North Saanich plans LNG meeting (Jan 29) — Peninsula News Review, Sidney, BC

Fears over potential liquefied natural gas tanker traffic in the Saanich Inlet have prompted the District of North Saanich to hold a meeting of area municipalities, First Nations and more.

Thornburgh said he wants the proponent of the project, Steelhead LNG, to be represented at the meeting to provide information. The company has partnered with the Malahat First Nation to create Malahat LNG. Natural gas would be transported to the facility from elsewhere in B.C. — by tanker and by pipeline — where it would be liquefied and exported, presumably to Asia.

The project is still in its early stages and was granted an export license by the National Energy Board in October 2015. Still to come are provincial and federal environmental assessments and public consultation throughout 2016 and 2017.

Federal assessment expanded for Woodfibre LNG (Jan 29) — The Squamish Chief, Squamish, BC

Comment period will run for three weeks but dates not yet set

The company has received word from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) that it's done an analysis of the upstream emissions associated with Woodfibre LNG, according to Jennifer Siddon, senior manager of corporate communications with Woodfibre.

The analysis includes emissions associated with the pipeline and the natural gas extraction from the project. Previously the requirement covered direct emissions, such as from the site, transportation and power, according to Siddon.

Northwestern B.C. LNG pipeline decision extension requested (Jan 29) — Terrace Standard, Terrace, BC

CONSTRUCTION decisions for at least one and perhaps more smaller liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants near Kitimat remain unknown, based on a filing today with a provincial regulator.

Pacific Northern Gas (PNG) was to tell the B.C. Utilities Commission today how large of a natural gas pipeline it was to build to the locations for up to three planned LNG plants, all of which would be located on barges.

But yesterday PNG asked the utilities commission for an extension and a change in detail it would need to provide.

The utility is now asking to submit the pipeline size filing “within 10 days of Douglas Channel LNG making a Final Investment Decision on the project,” a statement today from the utilities commission indicates.

California

California's methane leak passes 100 days, and other sobering numbers — InsideClimate News

The Aliso Canyon gas leak is the latest fossil fuel disaster to elude attempts at a solution, and the numbers and impacts are piling up.

The ruptured well in northwest Los Angeles has been spewing methane into the atmosphere for 100 days as of Sunday—and counting.

Well control specialists may not be able to plug the leak until the end of the month, although the rate of emissions has slowed 65 percent since peaking in late November. How long it’s taking underscores how difficult it can be to stop fossil fuel-related accidents and leaks, and has drawn attention to aging infrastructure and lax regulations that probably played a role in the well’s failure.

The amount of methane released so far from the ongoing leak will have the same climate impact over the next 20 years as seven coal-fired power plants, according to climate scientists from the Environmental Defense Fund. Thousands of nearby residents have been temporarily relocated, including California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, according to NBC news in Los Angeles.

Canada

4 key questions for Canada's new pipeline, LNG climate test — DesmogCanada

Last week, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr announced Canada’s intention to apply a climate test to major energy infrastructure proposals. This was the fifth of five new principles they announced to improve environmental assessments in the country.

The change is good news because it will fill a long-standing gap in the country’s environmental assessment process. The standard approach has been to look at individual oil pipeline or LNG terminal proposals without worrying about the oilsands mines or gas fields they’re connected to. The new approach will include the carbon pollution from the project being proposed and the carbon pollution from the development associated with it.

What the federal government hasn’t said yet is how they plan to evaluate the new information and integrate it into their eventual decisions. Here are four questions I’d like to see included in their climate test, using Petronas’s Pacific NorthWest LNG project to illustrate how they might work. In many cases, the federal government — as opposed to the proponent — is in the best position to address these questions.

Question 1: Are there opportunities to cut carbon pollution? ….

Question 2: Are the policies in place to ensure carbon pollution is minimized? ….

Question 3: Does the project fit within a plan to meet climate commitments? ….

Question 4: Is the project viable as world moves away from fossil fuels? ….

[Colored & bold emphasis added.]

B.C. delegation seeks Ottawa's support for LNG export plans (Feb 1) — The Globe and Mail, Toronto, ON

B.C. Premier Christy Clark and four of her top cabinet ministers will press their case in Ottawa this week to keep the province’s economic momentum going, including seeking support for exporting liquefied natural gas.

The B.C. Liberal government’s LNG dreams are being threatened by low energy prices and a looming glut of global supply of the fuel. The vast majority of 20 B.C. LNG proposals have been rendered uneconomic based on current depressed prices for the commodity in Asia, but Pacific NorthWest LNG maintains it is keen to start construction this year on Lelu Island in the Port of Prince Rupert.

Protesters, led by some members of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation, set up a camp on Lelu Island in August. Last month, three New Democratic Party members of the provincial legislature joined a coalition of aboriginal leaders, environmentalists and some B.C. residents to sign a declaration that urges protection for wild salmon in Flora Bank, located next to Lelu Island. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

United States

Dems push to expand methane regs as Senate debates Energy Reform Bill (Feb 1) — Natural Gas Intelligence [Paid subscription]

As the Senate prepares to vote on a comprehensive energy reform bill as early as this week, a number of Senate Democrats are pushing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to expand its proposed oil and gas methane emissions limits.

Last week, a group of 21 senators, led by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), penned a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urging regulators to go beyond current plans to limit methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

The senators also asked EPA to propose methane emissions standards for existing sources “under the categories covered by the proposed NSPS [new source performance standards], as well as the additional categories” detailed in the letter.

But while the White House has signaled “support for a middle-of-the-road bill...neither House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) nor conservatives within his caucus may be eager to cede their hardline stances on climate policy and fossil energy production until after the election.” [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Our LNG exports signal from Iran — Breaking Energy

Iran’s plan to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) within two years is what you call a market signal, one that should cause U.S. policymakers to reconsider the ponderous pace with which proposed U.S. LNG export projects are gaining federal approval.

World

Japan diverting excess LNG signals structural changes In LNG market (Jan 31) — Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide, Hellas (Greece)

With the ongoing supply glut gathering even more steam and with the glut likely to persist well into the next decade, news broke on Thursday that Japanese LNG buyers will now sell unwanted LNG. Reuters said that after decades of negotiating with suppliers for the lowest possible prices, the world’s top importer is moving from customer to competitor, seeking to sell surplus stock. The report added that Japan is unlikely to shift vast volumes off its books, but it is delaying or diverting some shipments after overestimating gas needs, adding pressure to a market already facing a global glut. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

New projects will add 118.8 mta to global LNG production (Jan 14) — LNG World Shipping

Twelve new LNG-export projects will add nearly 119 million tonnes a year (mta) of new capacity in the next three years, creating a “prolonged” oversupply, according to a new study by King & Spalding, which describes the increase in liquefaction capacity to 2020 as “unprecedented”.

The 12 projects are:

  • The first five US shale-gas projects: Sabine Pass, Freeport LNG, Cameron LNG, Cove Point and Corpus Christi LNG, adding 62.6 mta
     
  • The four Australian projects that launch in 2016-2017: Gorgon LNG, Shell’s Prelude floating LNG (FLNG project), Wheatstone LNG and Ichthys LNG, adding 37 mta
     
  • Petronas’ two Malaysia-based FLNG projects: PFLNG1 and PFLNG2, adding 2.7 mta
     
  • Russia’s Arctic LNG project: Yamal LNG, adding 16.5 mta by 2021

[Colored & bold emphasis added.]

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