What┬╣s So Bad About LNG?
Second in a four-part series
Our Safety and Security
Security and Emergency Planning
"In the absence of the measures described in this letter and the resources necessary to implement them, or in the absence of any changes to existing Coast Guard policy or guidance to lessen safety and security requirements, the Columbia River would be considered unsuitable for the LNG marine traffic associated with the Bradwood LNG terminal." -- Federal Maritime Security Coordinator, U.S. Coast Guard, February, 2007
Firefighting and security resources are extremely limited along the entire transit route, both to manage LNG shipments or respond to an LNG emergency such as spills, explosions, and pipeline leaks. --U.S. Coast Guard Waterway Suitability Report, 2007
The federal government considers LNG tankers to be a terrorist target and requires armed gunboats to escort each tanker. LNG tankers will need to have Coast Guard escort boats and firefighting tugs close by at all times; other vessels on the river will need authorization to enter a 1500-foot moving security zone surrounding the tankers in the shipping channel. -- U.S. Coast Guard Water Suitability Report, February 28, 2007
"The EPACT (Energy Policy Act of 2005) leaves emergency planning ┬ş one of the most important pieces of LNG siting ┬ş until one of the very last stages of the process . FERC does not require an applicant to reach an agreement with state or local agencies on an emergency response plan before an LNG application can move forward." -- Brian Baird, U.S. Rep, WA, June, 2006
"Some members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, have voiced concern that serious safety risks -- as well as federal laws designed to encourage the siting of LNG terminals in "remote" areas -- are being overlooked, or even ignored, by federal agency officials." --Mobile Register, December 23, 2003
" the Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for setting safety standards for on-shore LNG terminals (due to its regulatory authority over pipelines) ┬ş including the siting, construction and operation of these facilities. " -- Staff report for the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Marine Transportation, U.S. House of Representatives, April 23, 2007
The Exclusion Zone: Set by the Coast Guard, the zone limits or prevents ship and bridge traffic around an LNG tanker. On the Columbia, this will be 500 yards (slightly more than 1/4 mile) around a tanker in all directions. At other sites, exclusion zones are usually a minimum of 500 yards to each side, 2 miles in front, and 1 mile in back.
Excerpts from testimony of Senator Barbara Mikulski, Maryland, to the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Marine Transportation, U.S. House of Representatives, April 23, 2007:
"I am absolutely opposed to a new LNG facility at Sparrows Point. We must do all we can do to protect the Port of Baltimore and the people of the Baltimore metropolitan area. I oppose this because of my fears and my frustrations. I worry about a terrorist attack. I worry about an accident with ghoulish consequences. This is a national security issue and a community security issue, not just an energy or a budget issue."
"So the safety and security of the people of Calvert County and all who live or work on the Bay is provided by an uncertain mix of private security guards, local law enforcement and the overstretched Coast Guard. What will this mean? I┬╣ve tried to find out ┬ş all I get is platitudes and abstractions ┬ş and a lot of paper. If there is a problem, do you call the Sheriff of Calvert County? Do you call the rent-a-cops from a private security firm? We must have these answers!"
Vapor Cloud Fires
Schools, communities, Highway 30, and Columbia Memorial Hospital are within the dangerous heat burn hazard range of 1.55 miles of a possible LNG tanker spill, as analyzed by the Sandia National Laboratories Report for the U.S. government, December, 2004.
Astoria┬╣s Columbia Memorial Hospital is not a designated burn center. The closest centers are at Emanuel Hospital in Portland and in Seattle. The hospital is a Level 3 Trauma Center and is the designated receiver of all trauma patients in the county. Trauma patients who cannot be treated at CMH are evaluated and referred out as needed.
"If about 3 million gallons* of LNG spills onto the water from an LNG tanker ship, flammable vapors from the spill could travel up to 3 miles." --Jerry Havens, Director, Chemical Hazards Research Center, University of Arkansas *3 million gallons is only 10% of a typical LNG cargo.
Vapor Burn Zone: Scientists say vapor from a liquefied natural gas spill or fire can ignite and burn up to 3 miles away and start other fires in its path.
"A (LNG) Pool fire is intense, burning far more hotly and rapidly than oil or gasoline fires. It cannot be extinguished . Its thermal radiation may injure people and damage property a considerable distance from the fire itself." --Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress Report for Congress, January 28, 2004
"Leading LNG scientists have said that a terror attack on an LNG ship, styled after the boat bomb strike on the USS Cole, could lead to a massive and uncontrollable fireball in one of the nation's ports. If such an attack were to occur as the ship passed through a populated area, such as around Boston Harbor, thousands of people could be killed, according to some scientists." --Mobile Register, December 23, 2003
There are no plans to add mercapten (rotten egg) odor to the regasified LNG, which allows people to smell if gas is leaking from the 36" high-pressure pipeline(s) proposed to go through Oregon to California.
- - - - - -
Excerpts from a study done by for Congress by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The results were presented on February 22, 2007 to Honorable John D. Dingell, Chairman, Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representaive and Honorable Bennie G. Thompson, Chairman, Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives:
"When LNG is spilled from a tanker, it forms a pool of liquid on the water . . . As the liquid warms and changes into a natural gas, it forms a visible, foglike vapor cloud close to the water. The cloud mixes with ambient air as it continues to warm up and eventually the natural gas disperses into the atmosphere. Under certain atmospheric conditions, however, this cloud could drift into populated areas before completely dispersing." If there is an ignition source, such as a cigarette lighter or a spark from a car or boat engine, the result is a vapor cloud fire or "pool fire."
"Our panel of 19 experts . . . agreed that the most likely public safety impact of an LNG spill is the heat impact of a fire . . ."
"Experiments to date have shown that LNG fires burn hotter than oil fires of the same size."
"Furthermore, a large, unconfined pool fire is very difficult to extinguish; generally almost all the LNG must be consumed before the fire goes out."
"The Sandia National Laboratories study concluded that the most likely distance for a burn is about 1,600 meters (1 mile.)"
"Both cold temperatures of spilled LNG and the high temperatures of an LNG fire have the potential to significantly damage the tanker, causing multiple tanks on the ship to fail in sequence-called a cascading failure. Such a failure could increase the severity of the incident."
More excerpts from a study done by for Congress by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and presented on February 22, 2007:
"Because an LNG vapor cloud displaces the oxygen in the air, it could potentially asphyxiate people who come into contact with it."
" Eighteen of the 19 experts agreed that the ignition of a vapor cloud over a populated area could burn people and property in the immediate vicinity of the fire."
"Heat Hazard distance describes the distance at which 30 seconds of exposure could cause second degree burns."
- - - - - - - - -
Excerpts from the remarks of Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, U.S. Representative from Maryland when he convened Coast Guard Subcommittee Hearing on Proposed LNG Site at Sparrow's Point, April 20, 2007
"The willingness of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to consider sitings in populated areas like Baltimore is of deep concern to me. These facilities are obvious terror targets - and an attack on an LNG terminal could produce terrible consequences."
"The Coast Guard is our thin blue line at sea... it is all that stands between our communities and the risks that LNG shipping can bring to them."
"LNG fires burn hotter than regular gas fires - and may emit thermal radiation that could burn even people near the vicinity of the fire. Further, LNG spilled on water is theoretically capable of re-gasifying almost instantly - creating a vapor cloud that may also explode if it finds a source of ignition. There is no reason to place these facilities in any location that could expose nearby residents to such risks. ."
"Our Subcommittee, which oversees all aspects of the Coast Guard's operations, is deeply concerned that an increase in the number of LNG terminals will stretch a Coast Guard already strained by the new homeland security responsibilities it assumed after 9-11 as well as by the need to continue its traditional missions of search and rescue and environmental protection."
"Before we commit the Coast Guard to providing the resources needed to ensure the security and safety of new LNG operations, we need to know that we are making commitments the Coast Guard can keep."
Compiled by Laurie Caplan
Astoria, Oregon June, 2007