"For much of the state of Maine, the environment is the economy"
2006 November 26
Minor revision (denoted in brackets) 2006 December 1
Save Passamaquoddy Bay 3-Nation Alliance -- comprised of Americans, Passamaquoddys, and Canadians -- has discovered that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has continued to publish that unconfined LNG vapor will not explode, even though it has known otherwise since 1978. The Sandia National Laboratories' 2004 December 21st LNG report to FERC disclosed that U.S. Coast Guard research proved in 1978 that unconfined LNG vapor can explode.
Save Passamaquoddy Bay webmaster Robert Godfrey stated, "FERC says that their primary interest is safety. FERC also claims that unconfined LNG vapor cannot explode. Save Passamaquoddy Bay has discovered that FERC has known about explosive unconfined LNG vapor since 1978 -- and was even reminded of it by the Sandia National Laboratories report to FERC in 2004. The Coast Guard research demonstrating 6% propane-content LNG vapor explosion, as well as subsequent research demonstrating 1% ethane-content LNG vapor explosion, was also referred to in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, in November 2005," said Godfrey.
The gas industry is promoting importing "hot" ([higher BTU], 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 vapor-explosion study. LNG with high propane and ethane content is commonly shipped to other countries. At the same time, FERC has been universally claiming that unconfined LNG vapor cannot explode.
"This 'explodes' FERC's LNG 'safe' vapor 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," he said.
"What's more," Godfrey continued, "it calls into question all of FERC's recent permitting of LNG terminals and storage facilities, since unconfined LNG vapor 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," said Godfrey.
Save Passamaquoddy Bay insists that FERC cease perpetuating this "non-exploding LNG vapor" myth, and that FERC publish -- in a way that does not minimize its seriousness -- information stating that unconfined LNG vapor 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 vapor myth to the local public in order to further their LNG terminal projects, SPB also requests that Congress, through proscriptive legislation with significant penalties, require that the LNG industry cease spreading this fraudulent myth in their quest for public support.
Although FERC is an agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), when FERC misbehaves, the only apparent recourse is the courts and Congressional legislation. And, while 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."
Save Passamaquoddy Bay suggests 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 requires inclusion of a Commission member with proactive interests for 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," Godfrey concluded.
"New process to help terminals handle rich LNG"
Most of the LNG sources produced around the world have historically yielded sendout-gas calorific heating values exceeding 1,100 btu/scf and, therefore, are too “hot” or rich (in hydrocarbon liquids) to meet US pipeline specifications without some form of processing or blending to lower its heating value.
"BG to add NGLs stripping plant at expanded trunkline terminal"
Dealing with "hot" LNG, or liquefied natural gas with an energy content that exceeds the existing standards for US pipelines, is creating challenges for importers who source supplies from almost anywhere but Algeria and Trinidad and Tobago. BG is considering a solution that would not only address the hot LNG issue, but would also create more profits from the LNG that the company imports through the Lake Charles, Louisiana, facility owned by Southern Union's Trunkline.
Sandia National Laboratories 2004 December 21 Report to FERC (page 127, under "4.3 Detonation Studies"; bold emphasis added):
[NOTE: LNG imported into the United States commonly contains around 5% propane content, with that content varying from shipment to shipment. A 6% or larger propane content is to be expected.]
Experiments were also performed to test a postulated accident scenario in which the vapor formed during an LNG spill mixes with air to form a flammable mixture and then diffuses into a culvert system. The mixture in the culvert ignites and the combustion wave accelerates then transitions to a detonation that exits the culvert and detonates the remaining unconfined vapor cloud. The detonation charge used in the culvert was a 13 kg explosive. Detonations in the vapor mixture occurred when propane concentrations were 6% or greater and the culvert measured 2.4 meters in diameter. From these detonations, the shock wave was felt at a town 22 km from the test site.
Journal of Hazardous Materials, November 2005, (page 133)
[NOTE: The article is not available online without payment.]
"4.2.2. U.S. Coast Guard China Lake tests "
"Detonations only occurred when methane was mixed with propane concentrations 6% or greater and the culvert measured 2.4 m (7.9 ft) in diameter."
"4.2.3. Vander Molen and Nicholls "
"For an ethane content of 1% by volume in the methane-ethane-air mixture, or a 10% ethane by volume content in the fuel, 5.5 g (0.012 lb) of condensed explosive or critical initiating blast energy of 25,000 J/cm was needed to result in detonation."
Quote (bold emphasis added):
Is LNG explosive?
In its liquid state, LNG is not explosive. When LNG is heated and becomes a gas, the gas is not explosive if it is unconfined. Natural gas is only flammable within a narrow range of concentrations in the air (5% to 15%). Less air does not contain enough oxygen to sustain a flame, while more air dilutes the gas too much for it to ignite.
FERC Pamphlet, "A Guide to LNG: What All Citizens Should Know", page 5:
(FERC website references the pamphlet at: http://www.ferc.gov/for-citizens/lng.asp and elsewhere.)
Quote (bold emphasis added):
What happens when LNG is warmed?
As a vapor, natural gas mixed with air is flammable in the concentrations noted previously. As LNG vapor warms above -160°F (-106.7°C), it becomes lighter than air and will rise and disperse rather than collect near the ground. However, it is not explosive unless flammable concentrations of gas occur in enclosed or otherwise confined spaces.
FERC information on LNG vapor rising
"Is LNG Explosive?"
The combustion range for LNG vapor is 5% to 15% (a 10% range).
The combustion range for gasoline is 1.4% to 7.6% (a 6.2% range).
The combustion range for propane is 2.2% to 9.5% (a 7.3% range).