March 11, 2004

Skikda, Algeria, is a long way from Claymont, Del., but B.P. would like to see the figurative distance stretched well beyond the geographic distance. Opponents of the company's plan to build a liquefied natural gas receiving and distribution facility at Crown Landing, N.J., claim, however, that the two points could become tragically close.

"We're still trying to understand what happened there," Lauren Segal told Delaforum as the energy company hosted the first of three community meetings in the Delaware River valley to tell why the proposed plant will be beneficial to the region while posing virtually no risk. Segal is the project manager.

Those on the other side, which includes some outspoken environmental activists, have focused on an explosion at a liquefaction plant at Skikda in January, which killed 30 people and injured 74, and woven

a doomsday scenario affecting communities along both sides of the river between Wilmington and Philadelphia, Penns Grove and Camden.

At a 'workshop'-style informational meeting in Claymont on Mar. 9, Segal said there is a significant difference between what exploded in North Africa and what is planned for the New Jersey location, directly opposite the industrial complex straddling the Delaware-Pennsylvania border.  "That [involved] a high-pressure boiler and nothing like that is planned here," she said.

Tankers such as the one depicted by this model displayed at a 'workshop' meeting in Claymont would bring natural gas in liquid form up the Delaware River to B.P.'s proposed plant at Crown Point, N.J.

Stopping well short of claiming nothing untoward could happen while stressing the natural gas industry's overall safety record, she said B.P. is reserving judgment until results of the official investigation of the Skikda accident are in. The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has joined Algerian authorities in conducting the investigation.

The commission is the agency which must grant the primary permit to allow B.P. to build the plant. Richard Elliott, one of the B.P. people manning exhibits at the meeting, said a permit application has been filed and that normal consideration of it should take between 12 and 18 months. State and local permits will be sought concurrently, he said.

It has not yet been determined, he added, whether a Delaware permit will be required. The plant itself will be in New Jersey, but the pier at which tankers bringing the liquefied gas will dock at a pier extending out into the river. Because the Delaware boundary reaches to the Jersey coast, the pier would be in Delaware. It would appear that it would fall under the provisions of the Delaware Coastal Zone Act.

It would take about three years after all the required permits are in hand for the plant to be built, Elliott said.

Natural gas recovered by B.P. in Trinidad and turned into a liquid would be delivered to the plant in large tankers and stored in three refinery-style tanks. Both the ships and the tanks would be heavily insulated to prevent the liquid from prematurely becoming gas and reinforced for safety. Conversion to gas with the use of heat exchangers would be part of the process of transferring it to the existing natural gas pipeline, which passes underground by the site, for distribution to customers in the Middle Atlantic region.

Segal said odor would be added to the fuel and, except for volume, the product in the pipeline would be the same that is pumped through this area and routinely burned in houses and commercial buildings. Many environmentalists and others generally regard it, from an air-quality perspective, as the fuel of choice, she said.

Turnaround time from ship to the existing natural gas pipeline will be about three days, based on an estimate of 100 ship arrivals a year, according to Aleita Rias, another B.P. host. The plant's processing capacity is to be 1.2 billion cubic feet a day, an amount of natural gas that could warm 5 million houses.

B.P. is a combination, through mergers, of British Petroleum, American Oil, Atlantic Richfield and Castrol.

Segal said the company's intention to build the plant, at an estimated cost of $500 million, is in response to rapid growth in demand for natural gas as both a residential and an industrial fuel. "The United States in recent years has developed a huge appetite for natural gas," she said.

Natural gas, once a waste product of oil exploration, is both efficient and 'environmentally friendly', she said. When it comes to recognizing and acting upon that, "we're playing catch-up with Europe and Japan," she added.

Conectiv Energy sells natural gas in Delaware, obtaining its supply by pipeline from the Gulf of Mexico coast. If and when the B.P. plant comes on line, the utility presumably would contract locally. But B.P. people at the meeting said volatility of the market makes it impossible to estimate what effect resultant reduction in the transportation component of the wholesale cost would have on retail rates.

2004. All rights reserved.

Return to Delaforum Newsfront

Get more information about this topic

Read previous Delaforum article: Gas terminal proposed for nearby New Jersey site
Access the B.P. Crown Point project Web site
Read an Engineering News-Record article on liquefied natural gas safety

What is your opinion about the topic of this article?
Click here to express your views.