"For much of the state of Maine, the environment is the economy"
2016 May 3
PORTLAND, Maine — After regulators sort out whether Maine electricity customers should pay up to $75 million annually to help fund expanded natural gas pipeline capacity, they may have another question before them: whether ratepayers should help pay for natural gas storage facilities.
A bill that became law earlier this month allows the Maine Public Utilities Commission to have ratepayers fund contracts with liquified natural gas storage facilities, an expansion of the authority granted to the commission under a broad 2013 energy bill.
Just like a pipeline, a storage facility could contract with generators, liquified natural gas exporters or others to supply gas.
Regulators are holding hearings this week as they move toward deciding the pipeline capacity question, weighing the costs and benefits of specific proposals from two developers, Spectra Energy and Portland Natural Gas Transmission System.
Another developer, Kinder Morgan, earlier this month scrapped a plan for a new pipeline Maine regulators also were considering.
In pushing for the gas storage bill last year, Coleman testified that Northern LNG has a proposal for a 1.2 billion-cubic-foot liquified natural gas storage facility near Emera Energy’s Rumford generator, a project designed and developed by Northern LNG partner Energy Management Inc.
[Catalyst Paper, General Electric, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the Mahoosuc Land Trust, the Oxford County Commissioners, and Rumford Hospital] praised the economic benefits for the region and the Mahoosuc Land Trust said it supported the proposal for the possibility of addressing peak natural gas demand while possibly preventing construction of natural gas pipelines that executive director James Mitchell wrote “may not be needed.” [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
The upfront cost to consumers under the proposed plan would be as much as $75 million a year. But the contracts could provide a secure revenue stream that gas companies could leverage to finance investments in new pipeline capacity.
But detractors say that natural gas prices have cratered since the high of three years ago, and demand has leveled off as well, showing that regulatory intervention could be risky for consumers.
“The idea that increasing the supply in New England will drive down electricity prices is speculative, and worse than that it’s speculation on the backs of our electricity customers,” says Greg Cunningham, an energy analyst at the Conservation Law Foundation.
Cunningham says that at a time when the U.S. is trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it would be a mistake to lock the region and ratepayers into an energy regime dominated by natural gas, which contributes to global warming. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
With public hearings starting and markets volatile, it's still unclear whether expansion is worth the price for ratepayers.
[A]fter three years of study, it’s still unclear how much money – if any – utility customers would save by helping to increase the supply of natural gas, which is used to generate half of New England’s electric power.
The bill [approved by the Legislature in 2013] directed the Public Utilities Commission to study whether it made sense for ratepayers, through utility contracts, to buy up to 200 million cubic feet of natural gas, at an annual cost of no more than $75 million.
But much has changed since 2013.
Natural gas wholesale prices are lower now than they’ve been in more than a decade. Slack demand during a warmer-than-average winter dropped wholesale electric prices in 2015 to the second-lowest level in 12 years.
Also down are prices for imported liquefied natural gas, which supplements domestic supplies.
[T]he past three years have shown just how volatile energy markets are, and why utility customers shouldn’t backstop investments for multibillion-dollar energy companies.
In Maine, the PUC review has been exhaustive. It has compiled 417 separate filings and 74 requests for data from parties in the case that include pipeline companies, environmental groups, utilities and government agencies. Much time has been spent dissecting and refuting details of a cost-benefit analysis of the proposals by a consultant for the PUC. The report indicated ratepayer investment wouldn’t be worthwhile. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
PORTLAND, Maine — Cianbro chairman Peter Vigue gets a little bit frustrated with talk of Maine’s high energy prices, because the state can claim New England’s lowest average electricity costs since about 2008.
“It’s really a distraction and convinces people that we’re not going to be competitive,” Vigue said.
From experience at the helm of a construction firm in Pittsfield that has won contracts around the country and last year brought on 300 more employees to boost its headcount to about 1,750, Vigue said politicians should trumpet Maine’s low power costs relative to other New England states.
“It affects the economy of the state and the perception that people have of our state,” Vigue said in a telephone interview. “And the New England states are our primary competitors in bringing business here.”
“What good does it do to talk about things — especially when they’re not true — in such a way that they just tear the state down and misrepresent the real facts?” Vigue said.
Saint John council voted unanimously on Monday night to move ahead with the repeal of the 11-year-old Canaport LNG tax deal but it could be years before any additional revenue arrives in municipal coffers.
The Canaport LNG property is assessed at $299 million, but under terms of the 2005 deal requested by Saint John's then council, and agreed to by the provincial government, Irving Oil's property taxes are fixed at $500,000 annually until 2031.
The taxes on a $299 million property would — under normal circumstances — generate $8.02 million annually for the municipality.
Webmaster's comment: Canaport LNG fooled Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick when the project was new, claiming that the project just couldn't afford to pay all those taxes. In reality, Canaport LNG has been receiving $12 million per year in rent receipts for the property. That is seven times the amount it has been paying in taxes. Is anyone surprised that an LNG project would lie to the public?
A wave of victory parties and impromptu parades has swept the region, celebrating the suspension of Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline project. What comes next?
This is not an end, but a beginning of the recognition of the power and potential of the broad-based network of engaged citizens, organizations and state and local officials that has formed over the past 26 months of concerted opposition to the pipeline.
But for those who need a reason that hits closer to home to stay involved, here’s a sobering reality: Political pressure is necessary to ensure that we do not see what some are calling “zombie NED” – a return of the nightmare pipeline proposal. NED is still twitching and could be given life support by the Massachusetts Legislature. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
More than three dozen New York state lawmakers have signed a letter sent to a federal energy regulator. They want construction halted on a pipeline project until an independent safety risk analysis is completed.
The lawmakers’ letter comes in support of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s February 29 directive to have an independent safety analysis to determine if the pipeline poses a risk to Indian Point [Nuclear Power Plant]. As Galef pointed out, the lawmakers signing represent districts within or very close to the 50-mile radius of the Buchanan-based nuclear power plant. The letter asks FERC to reverse its March 25 rejection of Cuomo’s request to stop construction until the study is completed. Senator Tony Avella, a Queens Democrat, says he signed onto the letter for a number of reasons.
“It’s just inappropriate to have these pipelines going through our state. It’s too dangerous,” says Avella. “And, in this case, we need to stop it because of the fact of its proximity to Indian Point.” [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
Houston-based Cheniere started exporting LNG from the Sabine Pass facility, the first of its kind to ship U.S. shale gas overseas, in February. Since then, the company shipped seven commissioning cargoes from the plant to South America, Asia and Europe.
According to the document sent to FERC, Sabine Pass Liquefaction and Sabine Pass LNG, both units of Cheniere, are requesting authorization to place the following facilities in service on or before May 3: Train 1 Inside Battery Limits; Heat Recovery Unit (HRU) and Condensate; and Stage 1 Outside the Battery Limits (OSBL) (to include the marine flare which was granted authorization to operate on December 21, 2015).
The company plans to construct over time up to six liquefaction trains, which are in various stages of development. Each train is expected to have a nominal production capacity of about 4.5 mtpa of LNG.
The promise by the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) company to deliver lower energy prices to consumers with the conversion of its Bogue, St. James plant to liquefied natural gas (LNG) is almost a reality.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the JPS, Kelly Tomblin, said this should be fully realised by the middle of August this year.
On a recent tour of the Bogue facility, Ms. Tomblin told JIS News that all permits and licences are in place and that the gas pipeline construction is almost 95 per cent complete.
Ms. Tomblin, who also met with representatives of the US-based New Fortress Energy, the supplier who will be providing the long-term natural gas solution for the company’s power plants, added that the project is within budget and has so far provided employment for 150 persons.
The Alaska LNG Project will delay its formal application to the US Federal Energy Commission until mid-November 2016 from the September 2016 date that had been planned, a spokesman for a project partner said Friday.
Alaska LNG is a $45 billion-$65 billion project that would build an 800-mile pipeline from the North Slope to a large LNG export plant in southern Alaska. Up to 20 million mt of LNG yearly could be exported under a Energy Department license that has been issued.
The delay in filing the FERC application is the first formal acknowledgment that the schedule is slipping.
"There's no doubt we are facing strong economic headwinds with this project," Baker told the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, a contractor group. "It's no secret that LNG prices are not as high as when we started this project. With energy prices this low the partners, including the state, have to look seriously at all options and capital investments." [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
As Trudeau's Liberal government meets its six-month mark of being in office, climate group the Pembina Institute is calling for a clear, comprehensive climate change test for Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) projects.
"Canada's federal government was elected last October on a platform that contained many environmental commitments. One of the most…hotly debated was their commitment to establish a pan-Canadian climate change framework," said Erin Flanagan, Program Director of Federal Policy at the Pembina Institute. "Since the government's election they have confirmed that working with the provinces and territories will be cornerstone to the federal approach on climate change."
The group hosted a webinar yesterday outlining what a climate test -- under the federal government's promise for a renewed environmental assessment process -- could look like and how it would affect proposed projects, such as the Pacific NorthWest (PNW) Project near Prince Rupert, B.C.
"When you combine emissions from the LNG terminal plus associated upstream emissions, it would be among the largest carbon polluters in Canada," he said. "From our perspective, whenever you have a project like that that's a material in a national or a provincial context in terms of being able to meet targets, it's entirely appropriate there should be a higher level of stringency and a higher level of rigor around the questions testing whether or not it makes sense for a project to go forward."
What the Pembina Institute proposes is a climate test that includes asking two critical questions: is the region on track to meet its climate targets and is carbon pollution from the project being minimized? If either of these questions has a negative answer, the project should not proceed. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
Pembina Institute says if B.C. doesn’t adopt Climate Leadership Team recommendations, Pacific NorthWest LNG project alone would exceed 2050 emissions target.
British Columbia could slash liquefied natural gas-related emissions in half if it adopts the recommendations laid out by its Climate Leadership Team.
Pembina Institute associate director Matt Horne made the case for recommendations Monday during a webinar where he compared the current projected greenhouse gas emissions for the Petronas-led Pacific NorthWest LNG project with estimates should Environment Minister Mary Polak adopt the team’s proposals.
The consortium is seeking to push the project across the finish line after a series of delays that arose mostly because of requests from the agency for greater detail. The upcoming filings are significant because they are seen as the final chapters to Pacific NorthWest LNG’s submissions aimed at winning regulatory approval.
If cabinet clears the way, that will allow Pacific NorthWest LNG to make its own final investment decision, potentially in September. Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas leads the consortium. The other partners are from Japan, China, India and Brunei.
Petronas has named a new president at Pacific NorthWest LNG to oversee construction of the B.C. project, hoping to show Ottawa that the consortium is willing to forge ahead despite a federal environmental review that has taken more than three years.
Adnan Zainal Abidin, vice-president of global LNG projects at Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas, will take over on Sunday as Pacific NorthWest LNG president. The industry veteran joined Petronas in 1984 and rose through the ranks to become an expert in liquefied natural gas.
Industry analysts say a global glut of LNG and low prices for the fuel have cast doubt on major projects. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
The Canadian government expects to make a decision on environmental approvals for Petroliam Nasional Bhd.’s C$36 billion ($29 billion) liquefied natural gas project on the nation’s Pacific coast by mid- to late-summer.
While Canada seeks to catch up with global LNG competitors such as Australia and the U.S., its developers are struggling after the oil-market collapse brought down LNG prices and forced companies to cut spending on projects. The Petronas development has been held up by opposition from an aboriginal group near the site of its proposed shipping terminal. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
All the First Nations that have inked the benefits agreements are located along four proposed natural gas pipeline projects: Pacific Trail Pipeline, Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project, Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project, and the Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission Project.
The proposed Pacific Trail Pipeline is a 480-kilometre natural-gas pipeline to deliver gas from Summit Lake to the Kitimat LNG facility site at Bish Cove on the northwest coast.
LNG plant hangs in limbo, awaiting federal approval and final investment decision
The camp, which would be built near Chetwynd in the Pine Pass, would serve as home base for workers building part of TransCanada’s 900-kilometre Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project
If approved, the pipeline would transport natural gas from Northeast B.C. to Petronas’s $11.4 billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project, where it will be liquefied and shipped to Asia.
It's possible no export facilities are ever built in B.C., expert suggests
A collapse in global LNG prices is the main culprit for why so many Canadian LNG export projects are in limbo or no longer make economic sense.
There is a growing possibility that no companies make final investment decisions on LNG projects until at least 2020, said King.
LNG delays have put B.C. Premier Christy Clark under considerable pressure. She charismatically praised LNG as an industry that would bring incredible wealth to B.C. — money to pay off all of the province's debt and create a $100-billion prosperity fund.
"[That no LNG projects are built] is a distinct possibility. I think if something were to happen it would be 15 or 20 years down the road when there is actually enough demand. Absent that, I just don't see it," said Medlock.
In the meantime, the woes continue for natural gas producers. Prices are near 19-year lows. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
UPDATE: We've staged several interventions, interactions and interuptions at FERC - which even drew questions on Bloomberg news! Check out the latest coverage at the BXE blog.
In 2014, 46 fossil fuel pipelines were proposed or approved at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC),1 sparking a wave of backlash as communities from coast to coast fought eminent domain for private gain, worried about spills and leaks and opposed construction of all this climate-killing infrastructure. But by 2015, FERC had approved or considered 84 additional pipelines for fracked gas and extreme energy.
Maybe FERC thought they were just following orders, but what they got was a rebellion. Outraged that FERC is running roughshod over local property owners' rights and threatening our climate with all this extreme energy infrastructure, the Rubber Stamp Rebellion has begun.… [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
Ending federal leasing program could reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide by 100 million tons, researchers find.
In a world cutting its use of carbon fuels to bring warming under control, "at some point in the next two decades, there is potentially no need for federal fossil fuels," said the analysis, published on Tuesday by the Stockholm Environmental Institute.
About a quarter of U.S. fossil fuel energy comes from federal lands, including 40 percent of coal. These subsidized leases are facing new challenges from environmental advocates who say they unwisely lock in high-carbon infrastructure for decades to come.
Taking into account switching between various fuels, the Stockholm study found that restricting coal leases would cut annual emissions by 107 million tons, partially offset by 36 million tons of additional emissions from natural gas. Restricting oil leases would cut emissions by 54 million tons, offset by additional emissions of 23 million tons from other fuels. Cutting natural gas leasing would have only negligible net effects, it found.
"Between them, these studies suggest that to be consistent with a 2 degree Celsius goal, the U.S. would need to cut aggregate fossil fuel production by 40–44 percent from current levels by 2040," the Stockholm paper found. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
U.S natural gas net imports fell to 2.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2015, continuing a decline that began in 2007, when net imports of natural gas exceeded 10 Bcf/d. While both U.S. natural gas consumption and production have increased in recent years, natural gas production has grown slightly faster, resulting in a decline in net imports. Increasing domestic production of natural gas has reduced U.S. reliance on imported natural gas and kept U.S. natural gas prices relatively low.
Most U.S. imports of natural gas come by pipeline from Canada. A small and declining amount of imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) comes mainly from Trinidad. Most U.S. exports of natural gas are sent by pipeline to Mexico and Canada. The United States also exported LNG and compressed natural gas to several countries, but these volumes were relatively minimal in 2015. EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook expects that the United States will become a net exporter of natural gas by mid-2017.
[Flash Video] Nicholas Potter, vice president of commodities at Barclays, examines the LNG market and outlets for U.S. production amid a global supply glut. He speaks on "Bloomberg Markets."
…It's only going to get worse….The market is so awash with LNG it's going to be very hard for projects to take a final investment decision now.
Webmaster's comment: But Downeast LNG has not been aware that the market for LNG has tanked, and has to take a time out from FERC permitting to sit down and study what is actually going.
On Earth Day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo put a stop to the Constitution pipeline, a dangerous project to shipped fracked gas from Pennsylvania into New York, intersecting almost 300 bodies of water. His action sent a clear message that protecting the safety of the state’s drinking water was more important than expanding Big Oil’s profits. And the move didn’t come out of nowhere; the same grassroots pressure that successfully pushed Cuomo to ban fracking in 2014 pushed him to reject this dirty fracked gas pipeline.
It wasn’t just Earth Day that brought good news for the planet. Two days before, the Kinder Morgan energy behemoth canceled a gas pipeline that would have run through parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The company faced stiff opposition from activists and residents of the towns where the pipeline would have been constructed.
Even government regulators that are accustomed to green-lighting dirty energy projects are changing their tune. Last month in Oregon the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said no to a massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Coos Bay. The battle against the Jordan Cove terminal and more than 200 miles of pipeline goes back over a dozen years—proving once again that dedicated, sustained activism is what will win the fight against corporate greed. And then the Oregon LNG company announced that it’s ending its plan to build an export terminal and pipeline in the state.
The fact is, activism—when we apply enough pressure to our decision makers—works. We’ve seen it in New York, where Gov. Cuomo banned fracking in 2014 and stopped the Port Ambrose LNG facility. While Cuomo has emerged as a climate hero, other Democratic governors haven’t been as responsive to their constituents on climate matters, even though the Democratic establishment is feeling the activist pressure to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Despite his rhetoric, Gov. Jerry Brown in California continues to frack even in the face of the huge climate disaster in the Porter Ranch community. In addition to Governors Hickenlooper in Colorado, Tom Wolf and Gina Raimondo (Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, respectively) continue to support the fracking industry and related infrastructure despite mounting opposition in those states.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said he expects U.S. to be one of the major export players in the global liquefied natural gas market.
“The U.S. Department of Energy has approved the export of over 120 billion cubic meters of LNG per year. To give you a scale, that is one-third of Europe’s use, and its about the amount that Qatar, the world’s largest LNG exporter, currently exports,” Moniz told Bloomberg’s Rishaad Salamat in an interview on Wednesday.
Cheniere is building six liquefaction trains at its Sabine Pass plant, and is also constructing the Corpus Christi liquefaction project.
Besides these two projects, several more LNG export terminals are under construction along the Gulf Coast.
Webmaster's comment: The US has already approved exporting more LNG than the market can absorb. Then, there's Australia's gargantuan LNG export output to contend with. Plus, Russia's Sakalin Island and Yamal LNG output.
The United States Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration [PHMSA] issued a notice for a public workshop on LNG regulations to be held on May 18-19, 2016.
The future regulatory change will affect the 49 CFR part 193, Liquefied Natural Gas Facilities which were first promulgated in 1970’s, when the majority of plants were built by natural gas pipeline operators for ‘‘peak shaving’’ or storage for injection back into natural gas pipelines to meet peak winter demand.
Due to the changes in the LNG industry from that period to the present, PHMSA is considering updates to Part 193 to reflect advances in technologies, design, construction, materials, material testing, and to address risks associated with new and aging facilities.
The companion energy bills now headed for conference in Congress might be coming just a tad too late for backers of pipeline and LNG projects. After months of delay, the Senate passed its omnibus energy bill by a vote of 85-12. It includes measures to expedite approvals of LNG exports facilities, electricity transmission lines and natural-gas pipelines. Then just hours later, one of the most controversial pipeline projects in the country — Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Direct — was canceled. There just weren’t enough customers to justify building the $3.1 billion project, the nation’s largest pipeline company announced. It also canceled the Palmetto oil pipeline in Georgia, citing the state legislature limiting its ability to use eminent domain. It follows the collapse of the Oregon LNG project, and rejection by FERC of Jordan Cove LNG after failing to sign up enough customers. (Jordan Cove is returning to FERC for a rehearing.) … [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
Although Perupetro has not revealed the exact destination of the two cargoes, both are probably heading for the Manzanillo terminal in the Colima state.
Nigeria’s earnings from the petroleum industry continue to be hard-hit as the United States (U.S.) Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import from Africa’s most populous country fell from 20.3 million cubic feet in June 2007 to zero as of February this year.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which made this disclosure yesterday in a statement, said it now gets majority of LNG from Mexico, Canada and Trinidad.
According to EIA, while both U.S. natural gas consumption and production have increased in recent years, natural gas production has grown slightly faster, resulting in a decline in net imports. Increasing domestic production of natural gas has reduced U.S. reliance on imported natural gas and kept U.S. natural gas prices relatively low.
Unmoored Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) pricing, declined LNG delivery, mothballed LNG capacity, asset sales, write downs.
Asia’s LNG market is in multi-hundred billion dollar chaos.…
The intra-Asian LNG industry is a result of government capture by fossil fuel interests. It makes no sense on economic grounds.
The distorted results are now on display: bloated construction costs (Australia), environmental degradation (Australia: Great Barrier Reef), overcharged buyers (Japan) and uncounted/uncosted carbon emissions (everywhere).
LNG oversupply is creating an active Asian LNG ‘spot market’ to the horror of insiders. It’s stripping the veil from this overpriced, misinvested industry.
A painful economic process of adjustment now has several years (and bankruptcies) to run. It won’t be pretty. It could have been avoided.
[R]enewables are rapidly achieving cost parity with natural gas. This undermines the rationale for long-term investment in natural gas, let alone a grossly expensive, single-purpose bespoke infrastructure to deliver it.
[I]gnoring LNG’s carbon emissions distorts LNG’s poor investment economics. But nstead of making rational calculations based on all economic factors, the LNG industry flattered LNG’s economics by excluding carbon.
…The result is an albatross industry. The evidence: an oversupplied regional Asian LNG market where spot market prices have fallen so low they now more than offset financial penalties of failing to honor long-term delivery contracts. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
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