Downeast LNG -- The Naked Truth
"For much of the state of Maine, the environment is the economy"
2011 Nov 22
Downeast LNG — The Naked Truth
North America has begun a projected decades-long natural gas boom, negating the need to import LNG according to the natural gas industry, finance, and government. There is so much natural gas available that the mad rush to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals has flipped to a mad rush to build LNG export capability. Existing LNG terminals are largely idle. The two-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, the closest and largest supplier of LNG to the US, whose exports to the US have already fallen by 66%, predicts that the country's exports to the US are about to drop to zero, and is looking for new markets in South America, Europe, and Asia.
On yet another international front, as recently as two weeks ago the as-yet incomplete Angola LNG liquefaction and export terminal on Africa's west coast was planning to ship most of its product to the US. However, on November 16, the company announced that due to the US natural gas glut the company is now looking elsewhere to ship its product.
Maine's senior US Senator Olympia Snowe, previously an ardent supporter of importing foreign LNG into Maine, announced on November 17 that US natural gas reserves rank second in the entire world and that domestic-supply natural gas is extremely cheap. She is seeking federal funds to construct a pipeline in Maine to assist in accessing that abundance. Maine's Gov. Paul LePage is supporting that effort. “It would be a major, major factor in several areas,” Gov. LePage said in October while at the East Millinocket paper mill. “It would take enormous pressure off their energy costs. That would create more profit and salary opportunities for their workers, create more opportunities for reinvestment in their facilities, and would allow them greater savings from efficiencies.” Keith Van Scotter, co-owner of Lincoln Paper & Tissue is investing around $1 million in using abundantly available natural gas. He told the Bangor Daily News, “Our two biggest competitive disadvantages in Maine are location — namely transportation costs — and energy,” and “We can’t change our location, but we can save on our energy costs. If we get access to pipeline natural gas, it gives us better prospects long-term to survive. Business today is really about survival and it might also put us in a position for further expansion. Without that, it is not likely. With that, it is possible."
Robert Godfrey, researcher and webmaster for Save Passamaquoddy Bay, a three-nation alliance opposed to LNG terminals on the bay shared by the US, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and Canada, said, "The decade's worth of natural gas glut comes atop a vast over-build of US LNG import infrastructure. Existing industry participants are being beaten over the head with natural gas market realities, and many of them are now clamoring to export LNG. The Gulf Gateway Deepwater Port offshore from Louisiana is even shutting down and scrapping its project due to a lack of market for imported LNG.
"Incredibly, Downeast LNG's president Dean Girdis and the proposal's financial backers, Kestrel Energy Partners and Yorktown Energy Partners, pretend nothing has changed since 2004 when Girdis dreamt up his project. Anyone visiting Downeast LNG's website today will see that the company still makes the preposterous claim that Maine and the Northeast need to import LNG," Godfrey continued. "Downeast LNG's website even claims that without their proposed project, natural gas prices would increase, supply would be unstable, and environmental quality would suffer."
Godfrey continued, "Downeast LNG makes the absurd claim that US natural gas production is in decline, that natural gas imports and prices are increasing, and that the North American natural gas bonanza is 'not expected to last for more than five years, perpetuating the reliance on foreign gas.' The Downeast LNG website continues to foist 2006-2007 data as if it were current and true; The website claims that supply is inaccessible and that gas prices are at historic highs. The company continues to claim that there is not enough LNG import infrastructure to support the demand even though the US now has 13 LNG import terminals with import capacity totaling 19.035 billion cubic feet per day. But, the US is expected to import only 0.7 billion cubic feet per day in 2012, so existing capacity is already 27 times greater than the import capacity needed for the entire country next year, and that doesn't even include the Canaport LNG terminal that also supplies Maine and New England."
"On the other hand," Godfrey said, "Downeast LNG admits that if demand were to warrant it, the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline 'can readily expand capacity to serve demand growth. Sen. Snowe and Gov. LePage are demonstrating exactly that — how expanding natural gas infrastructure throughout Maine will take advantage of the plentiful supply of natural gas already available in the state. This admission by Downeast LNG itself demonstrates the immediate ability of Maine to obtain greater domestic natural gas supply without importing LNG, defeating Downeast LNG's own purpose.
"The company even continues to hold forth a 2005 report, 'The Economic Imperative for Additional LNG Supplies in New England,' forecasting that by 2010 — nearly two years ago — natural gas demand would outstrip the region's ability to supply the fuel. Downeast LNG is clearly out of date and out of touch with the realities of their own industry," Godfrey continued. "Imagine how alarming being so out of touch must be to Downeast LNG's funders. One would think that Kestrel Energy Partners and Yorktown Energy Partners would call a halt to the financial bleeding brought about by Downeast LNG's lack of diligence, and would invest in projects that actually make sense.
"If ever there were an 'Emperor's New Clothes' story, this is it," said Godfrey. "Downeast LNG is draping itself in outdated reports, misinformation, and untruths in a natural gas market that has turned immensely against Downeast LNG's purpose. It should be clear to everyone that the "Downeast LNG emperor" wears no clothes. Just like in the fable, the emperor was the only one who couldn't admit that he was fooling himself. Downeast LNG, Kestrel Energy Partners, and Yorktown Energy Partners all need to take a long look in the mirror, face the reality that their project has no substance or purpose, and go home." Godfrey concluded.