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2004-02-02 17:14:47

Plans For LNG Pipelines In Full Swing

The Bahamas government has not yet given approval to any of the three companies wanting to lay separate liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipelines between The Bahamas and Florida.

However, the fact that approval has not been granted yet isn't stopping those firms from moving full steam ahead with their preparations.

Belgian energy company Tractebel, for instance, says it plans to call for bids sometime in the second quarter of this year on construction contracts for its $600 million LNG project.

The idea is to start construction by early in the third quarter. Construction will take 32 to 36 months, with operations staring up in mid-2007, according to international reports.

The project will supply 832 million cubic feet a day of natural gas to southern Florida via a pipeline from its proposed LNG receiving terminal.

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued its final environmental impact study on January 23 for the US section of the pipeline that is part of the project.

Project Manager, Jim Elbeling is quoted in one report as saying, "The staff concludes that approval of the proposed project with the appropriate mitigating measures as recommended would have limited adverse environmental impact."

The US section of the 24-inch pipeline, called Calypso, is 42.5 miles from the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundary. The pipeline is 90 miles in total length.

On the Bahamas side, Tractebel has submitted it final environmental impact assessment to the authorities and is working with the Bahamas Environmental Science and Technology Commission (BEST) which is reviewing the EIA, according to Mr. Ebeling.

According to reports, Tractebel's gas engineering subsidiary has already carried out front-end design studies for the LNG terminal.

The FERC gave its approval on January 22 for a similar project proposed by U.S.-based AES Corporation to transport gas to Florida from The Bahamas.

Trade and Industry Minister Leslie Miller recently told the Bahama Journal that AES appeared to be closest to getting the Bahamas government's approval for the project.

AES's Ocean Express pipleline would connect with, and receive natural gas transported by a 40-mile pipeline.

Ocean Cay, a 90-acre manmade industrial island, would be the site of a liquefied natural gas storage and re-gasification facility that would receive LNG from foreign suppliers.

The AES pipeline would deliver natural gas to markets in Florida and over the interstate pipeline grid to other parts of the country.

AES has said it plans to have the pipeline start delivering gas to customers by November 2005.

An environmental impact assessment conducted on the project said that laying a liquefied natural gas pipeline from Ocean Cay, near Bimini, to Florida presents the greatest potential for impact to marine resources as it will cause temporary disturbance to the ocean floor.

The EIA also said that the $550 million project is not expected to impact critical habitats of any endangered or at risk species.

Minister Miller had said that the third company, El Paso, appeared out of the race to construct a pipeline given that it was experiencing a funding shortfall. But the company recently said that funding for the project is now secure.

El Paso said that it had reached an agreement with an affiliate of FPL Group, a natural gas company based in Juno Beach, Florida, whereby FPL Group Resources has an option to purchase the development rights of the High Rock LNG facility on Grand Bahama.

This particular pipeline route originates at the proposed LNG facility and continues to the Exclusive Economic Zone boundary approximately 87 miles away.

If approval is granted, El Paso's pipeline would continue approximately 35 miles and make landfall at Riviera Beach Power Plant and continue onshore for nearly six miles along existing utility and roadway corridors.

The LNG issue has long environmentalists on alert.

Keod Smith, chairman of the BEST Commission, reiterated in the House of Assembly Thursday that the government should tread carefully in considering approving any of these projects.

Mr. Smith has pointed out in the past the necessary environmental policy framework is not in place to ensure that LNG pipelines and terminals do not adversely impact the environment.

The Bahama Journal 

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