Battles over LNG Terminals & Natural Gas Pipelines

The Oregonian has some good coverage of the effort by natural-gas companies to run a pair of natural-gas pipelines through the state.

The opponents, community activists and environmental advocates, argue that they're unnecessary and dangerous:

Opponents of the terminals and associated pipelines, ranging from environmental activists to concerned residents, have their own campaign. They describe the projects as tempting terrorist targets and potential environmental disasters and say the projects threaten not only safety and quality of life for residents but also the local tourist trade.

They pepper their descriptions of LNG with words such as "blast zone" and "vaporized." And they contend that while investors have tried to put a friendly local face on their projects, they are really wildcatters from Houston and New York.

On the other hand, proponents say that it's about energy-security in the Northwest:

Proponents of LNG contend that the gas will stay here. They argue that the Northwest is home to a variety of energy-intensive industries and needs another source of gas to buffer price shocks as supplies from the Rocky Mountains and Canada become constrained. Exports of Canadian gas are expected to decline as its domestic demand heats up for use in separating oil from sands in Alberta. Meanwhile, pipelines are under construction that will carry Rockies gas to East Coast markets, where prices are higher.

"In the absence of additional supply, the Northwest will find itself in a very volatile market," said Joe Desmond, former chairman of the California Energy Commission, who is now a vice president at NorthernStar Natural Gas, which has proposed one of Columbia facilities, called Bradwood Landing.

And if a liquified-natural-gas terminal is approved, what's the right location? Some argue that the Columbia River is the wrong spot:

On Aug. 13, more than 100 demonstrators launched a small flotilla of boats from the shores of Puget Island on the Columbia to occupy the beach at Bradwood Landing, an abandoned mill site that is little more than a patch of scrub brush sitting below a riverside escarpment.

"I think LNG has a place in the energy mix, but this is the wrong place for it," said Jim Reed, a resident of nearby Cathlamet, Wash., and a former manager of an LNG project in Russia with Marathon Oil Co. "A major emergency is a low-probability event, but with this current, could you contain a spill? It's hard to a get a sense of whether NorthernStar knows what it's facing."

Is all this about providing natural gas to Californians? That won't sit well with Oregonians:

The destination of the gas has long been a key question, and the proposed pipelines have provided new fuel for the fire. Opponents of the terminals contend that developers, chased out of California, now plan to use Oregon as a conduit to that market.

They point out that the facilities' combined capacity is far greater than Oregon's daily demand for natural gas and claim that California, with its mammoth market and higher prices, is the obvious destination.

In a filing with securities regulators, NorthernStar acknowledged that California was a possible market and the Palomar pipeline could -- if built -- provide that access with its connection to an interstate pipeline near Madras.

Ken Zimmerman, an analyst of resource markets with the Oregon Public Utility Commission, said it's no secret that California is the big gas market. It's likely, Zimmerman said, that three-quarters of the gas coming through an LNG terminal in Oregon would be sold to customers in the state to the south.

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • andy (unverified)

    Yawn. The area is growing so we need more infrastructure. NIMBY's don't like the new infrastructure in their backyard. Same old thing all over again.

    The infrastructure needs to be put in place to support the growth so someone needs to make a decision on where to put the new pipelines (roads, sewer lines, docks, etc). There is a process for handling the siting and there are trained engineers to sort out the details. I don't see anything to get excited over here.

  • Gordie (unverified)

    Terminology check: Isn't the proposed terminal where the imported LNG is converted into its gaseous form, meaning its pumped into a natural gas pipeline, not an LNG pipeline?

  • (Show?)

    Ummmm... yeah, Gordie, I think you're right. I'll fix the post. Thanks!

  • OBM (unverified)

    LNG coverage from Oregon Business magazine from May of this year.


    In the global energy market, Oregon has always been little more than a blip on a fuel gauge. But liquefied natural gas, or LNG, may soon be arriving on the state’s shores — and with it, a controversy that pits economic benefits against risks to the region’s safety and businesses.


    Much of the outcry against those terminals will come from business, environmental and citizen groups. At the core of their arguments is a single question: Since each proposed terminal would produce far more than the state’s annual needs, is Oregon being forced to bear a significant burden for other states’ benefit?

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Most of the population of Central Oregon lives within a few miles of a natural gas pipeline. It is east of Hwy 97 running from (I'm told) Canada to Las Vegas.

    About 10 years ago, they put in a new pipeline by the older one, to increase flow. Then, the Cogentrics Company decided that since gas was so cheap, and power so needed, that they would put a natural gas fired turbine power generation facility on the Jefferson County side of the Crook/Jefferson County line.

    If built, the power plant would have consumed somewhere around 150,000 acre feet of water a year - in a high desert. Well, the price of gas went up, and the power plant plans were abandoned.

    But, if bring the pipeline, you bring the power plants. Due to changes in Federal law under the Bush Administration, States no longer have a say in where power plants can be built.

    So, this isn't just about where a pipeline goes, what might blow up with it if it blows (and all infrastructure ages and becomes unsafe), but what the pipeline brings with it. I would think that a terminal in Coos Bay, and a pipeline inland might just go over to places like Roseburg where there is more water - it takes "gas for fuel and water to cool" to make a power plant. Then the power can be shipped to California even if the gas never goes there.

  • magix (unverified)

    LNG like oil is a finite resource and investing money and infrastructure in finite resources has little long term potential in my opinion. Why not invest in renewables and clean storage for renewable energy? Then move from producing huge quantities of power in a central location and transmitting it long distances to a distributed power model creating power at the point of consumption.

  • (Show?)

    So we are worried about a "spill" of LNG?

    Combustible leak, yes, but a "spill" isn't going to produce a slick or the environmental damage that oil would.

    The fact the LNG is not at all the same animal as spilling oil (crude or refined).

    While there are some safety issues because LNG vapor is combustible (as are most fuels), when someone starts ranting about an LNG "spills" I know not to take them too seriously.

    I have read numerous rants against LNG terminals, even here at BlueOregon, and I find most of the anti-LNG arguments to me less than convincing.

  • GoLNG (unverified)

    "I have read numerous rants against LNG terminals, even here at BlueOregon, and I find most of the anti-LNG arguments to me less than convincing."

    Agreed. Though I hear reasonable arguments from both sides in the LNG debate, the pro's significantly outweigh the con's. Not that we should not also be encouraging development in non-fossil fuel alternatives, but I fail to see why we cannot or should not do both.

  • brent foster (unverified)

    A few things are key to understand about the LNG fight. Oregon is facing 3 serious proposals for LNG import terminals because, despite having 10 times the gas demand of Oregon, California simply won't accept the high environmental, public safety and economic risks of an LNG terminal and they're betting Oregon will. California, for ex, just rejected an LNG port 14 miles off shore, but the Texas energy speculators pushing the leading Orgon project want to put an LNG terminal 38 miles up the Columbia! Even Tijajuana Mexico refused to accept a proposed LNG terminal onshore and even Republicans like Mitt Romney totally opposed new LNG ports planned for Boston. The LNG developers' claims that the LNG they want to import to Oregon isn't for California wouldn't be so insulting if it weren't for the pipelines that each project has directly linking the port to California bound gaslines.

    Also- the idea that LNG spills should "not be taken seriously" appears to ignore the fact that the Sandia National Labs and Government Accountability Office have both issued recent reports showing a potential LNG blast zone due to a terror attack that extends to at least 1.5 miles which means if someone should take the relatively simple step of shooting an LNG tanker with a shoulder fired missle in front of Astoria you can kiss 10,000 or so Oregonians goodbye. When the president of Lloyds of London, which insures LNG tankers, says that an LNG tanker explosion would be akin to a nuclear bomb it makes the argument that we shouldn't worry about the safety risk a little harder to make.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    I just had the unpleasant experience of driving NW Lovejoy between Broadway and 21st. All those two thousand under construction Condos are going to need energy - and I doubt that burning dung will achieve a sufficient level of popularity to replace traditional energy sources.

    Solar and wind are a lifetime away from achieving the efficiencies we need. Nuclear is unpopular. Hydro kills fish. Coal kills people. LNG seems like a reasonable alternative.

  • NoLNGontheColumbia (unverified)

    There are 2 very different factors in this LNG debate--the fuel (LNG/NG) and the location of terminals and pipelines.

    Whether or not LNG/NG is used as a fuel source for power production, the terminals don't have to be sited on the Columbia River. The ONLY reason Northern Star wants to site a terminal at Bradwood versus siting it 7-10miles off shore is that their construction costs would be lower and thus their profit margins would be higher.

    Who among us care whether or not Northern Star gets higher profit margins? The only people who stand to benefit from the Bradwood siting is the principals and shareholders in Northern Star, and the people that stand to lose from this Bradwood siting is everyone else!

    An LNG terminal at Bradwood will damage the salmon runs on the Columbia River, disrupt merchant traffic going up to Kelso, Longview, and Portland, radically reduce the tourism and recreational uses of the river, and will do all of this just to increase Northern Star's profit margin!

    An LNG terminal doesn't half to be built on shore, especially not on the Columbia River.

    We can argue all day as to whether the US needs to build LNG terminals or not, but even if you assume that we need to build an LNG terminal, there is NO valid reason to build one on the Columbia River.

    If an LNG terminal has to be built, build it offshore!

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    small stuff compared to a LNG terminal:

    Liquefied Natural Gas Tanks Explode In Dallas

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    Let's stop building.

  • Dan Serres (unverified)

    There are a few important things for Progressives to consider on this LNG issue:

    First, we must consider the source of the LNG. It is convenient for the LNG proponents to pretend as though we should start measuring the environmental impact of these projects once the tankers arrive at our shores. However, the reality of LNG production is that severe - probably the most severe - impacts occur in upstream, source nations. By buying into the Pacific Rim LNG market, we will be driving forward the development of oil and gas projects like Sakhalin II in Russia, the Camisea Pipeline in Peru, and the Tangugh LNG development in Indonesia. All of these have severe environmental, human rights, and local economic impacts.
    Progressives should claim this moment in Oregon's energy decision-making to steer the region away from a new commitment to foreign fossil fuels. A useful policy tool is the ongoing debate about how to evaluate new electricity generation facilites for their carbon emissions. LNG, because of its long supply lines and multiple stages of processing, is substantially worse than conventional NG in its carbon emissions over its life cycle. So, our cleanest natural gas-fired plants, if powered by LNG, will resemble gasified coal in their emissions more closely than if their fuel came from North American natural gas (see Heede Climate Change report,, and recent Carnegie Melon study on this issue).
    Basically, we have the ability and the responsibility to avoid this huge infrastructural commitment to the next generation of foreign fossil fuels. It is unfair to outsource the impacts of our energy addictions to nations like Russia, Peru, and Indonesia, and it is unwise to commit ourselves to carbon-intensive sources of electricity. This is far more than a NIMBY issue.
    And frankly, it is far bigger than Oregon or Washington. These projects proponents are being driven by billions of dollars of potential profit in the CA energy market. We have to stand up for Oregon and ensure that we are not used as the "back door" to hook the entire Western U.S. on a resource which poses a serious threat to our local communities, our state, our climate, and to those nations that would be the sources of our (or California's) LNG.

  • Dan Serres (unverified)

    One other thing: This whole issue is an enormous opportunity for Oregonians to work together across traditional political divides. I have been attending meetings along the pipeline route, from Molalla to Forest Grove and beyond, where neighbors who have very little in common politically are being led to question the energy infrastructure decisions we are making. This is a teaching moment regarding our energy addiction, and many Oregonians are prepared to question the future of our fossil fuel use, particularly if it is derived from a foreign source. LNG will ultimately look a lot like oil, if we allow our region to buy into it in a big way. We are working with opponents from Mexico to B.C. to stop these things. We have a chance to build relationships throughout Oregon and build trust in areas where divisions between "left" and "right" run deep, but where both can see the enormous faults in these LNG schemes.

  • Samantha (unverified)

    "While there are some safety issues because LNG vapor is combustible (as are most fuels), when someone starts ranting about an LNG "spills" I know not to take them too seriously."

    In this case, the "ranter" happens to be someone who spent many years as manager of an LNG project for Marathon Oil in Russia. I would take him more seriously than just about anyone when it comes to LNG. I would certainly expect him to know much more about it than say, a venture capitalist with not much to lose and everything to gain from a FERC approval.

    I agree that the risk of an LNG accident is low, but why take a risk at all? I have seen nothing that leads me to believe that the so-called economic benefits of any of the Oregon proposals outweigh the risks to the environment (locally and globally), the potentially negative economic impacts, or the setback to renewable energy and efficiency measures statewide.

    The infrastructure mindset needs to change. The idea that we can continue building and burning and consuming at the current rate is not what I consider "progressive." Energy efficiency, passive solar building, and other conservation measures can go a long way towards circumventing development of a new fossil fuel infrastructure.

    In a recent article, the lieutenant governor of California implied that rather than building more natural gas developments on California's coast, the state can rely on LNG imports from the already approved Sempra Energy terminal in North Baja, and "in the long run if California needs more natural gas, it can get supplies that may come through one of the proposed Oregon-based receiving terminals..." (from NGI's Daily Gas Price Index posted Aug 21, 9:18 AM).

    Why should Oregonians believe that building the Palomar or Oregon LNG pipelines will lower the gas prices regionally? Gas from the Rockies is being diverted to the East Coast because the prices are higher there. It makes more sense to me to steer clear of a market-dependent energy supply and focus on energy independence.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Samantha | Aug 22, 2007 3:43:45 PM "While there are some safety issues because LNG vapor is combustible (as are most fuels), when someone starts ranting about an LNG "spills" I know not to take them too seriously." In this case, the "ranter" happens to be someone who spent many years as manager of an LNG project for Marathon Oil in Russia.

    Show me an LNG project manager from anywhere who can cite any case of a "spill" being an environmental issue as opposed to an issue of combustible leak (i.e. a safety issue).

    As I said up-thread, the issue of safety vis-á-vis explosion are valid concerns (which I said at the outset) however anyone ranting about an environmental impact from "spills" is being disingenuous (at best) since a volatile liquid which is a safety threat because it turns into a combustible vapor, is not an environmental impact issue (i.e. a "spill") at all.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Methane, the main constituent of natural gas, is a super-greenhouse gas. A spill, leak, release, or whatever-else-you-call-it of LNG would, indeed, have serious environmental impact. Rather than kill organisms in the vicinity [those that are not incinerated if the gas ignites] it would lead to an increase in the climate change that is endangering species all over the globe.

    But, hey, they need more gas in California.

  • dyspeptic (unverified)

    We need to put ALL of the resources available for energy exclusively into renewable, globally cool, energy sources. This LNG terminal would have been a bad idea 10 years ago, but it is a complete stinker today.

    It will always fail any direct cost/benefit comparison with greener, renewable sources, but the argument we need to be most careful to be sure doesn't go unchallenged is the idea that, as we move toward development of more renewable, green power sources, we need this on an interim basis because the green, renewable stuff is so hard and slow to develop. Don't let the camel's nose into the tent! Once this stuff is on line, any move to supplant it will be greeted with a chorus of "jobs! jobs! jobs!" and facile explanations of how sticking with LNG will save trees or something.

    In the meantime... Next time you buy a coffee maker, get the one with the insulated carafe instead of the glass one. The warmer under the glass carafe is a dumb watt-waster and just burns the coffee anyhow. Another watt-saver: put in a passive ventilation system that lets you ventilate your living area even if your windows are closed. You'll enjoy a cooler home without sacrificing security, privacy or quiet and save lots of watts on fan and AC.

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