Offshore LNG terminal proposed near Los Angeles.

The proposal is part of a surge in LNG plants planned in the United States to meet growing demand for natural gas. The California project, called Cabrillo Port, would have the capacity to store the equivalent of 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Ships bringing LNG to Cabrillo Port would transfer their cargo to a permanently moored vessel serving as a storage facility. The LNG would then be converted to a gas using eight vaporizers and shipped directly to the mainland via a 21-mile-long pipeline laid on the ocean floor that would connect to the Southern California Gas Co. pipeline at Ormond Beach in the city of Oxnard.

Right now there are only four marine import terminals in the United States. All four are undergoing expansion, according to Damien Gaul, a staff economist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. There are at least seven new marine terminals proposed for the lower 48 states. In addition, there are four new marine terminals planned in Mexico, along the Baja California coastline.

In September, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the construction of the first new import terminal for LNG to be built in more than 20 years, a $700 million project to be located near Hackberry, La. The last LNG terminal constructed in the United States was the Lake Charles (La.) terminal, which was approved in 1977.

About 60 people would be employed at BHP Billiton’s facility. As proposed, it would be 938 feet long and 213 feet wide and would operate 24 hours a day, said Patrick Cassidy, a BHP Billiton spokesman at the company’s Houston office. The facility’s crew will be divided into two groups of 30. The crew would work and live on the Cabrillo Port for seven days, then get seven days off while the other crew took over, Cassidy said.

BHP Billiton does not expect the port to open until 2008. Once open, it could send natural gas into the pipeline at a rate of 1.5 billion cubic feet daily, although on average it would probably only send 700 million to 800 million cubic feet per day, or about 13 percent of California’s average daily consumption. Cassidy expects that between two and three LNG ships will call at the port each week. Offloading the cargo takes about 24 hours.

“What makes this unique is there will be a very small footprint on shore; it hooks right up into the existing pipeline,” Cassidy said.

By Professional Mariner Staff