First LNG Shipment Arriving at Billion Dollar Freeport Terminal

The first cargos of liquid natural gas are arriving at LNG receiving terminals being developed along the Gulf Coast. Initial shipments are being used to cool the terminals to normal operating temperature, as we hear from Houston Public Radio’s Ed Mayberry.

Tankers are delivering liquified natural gas from Africa to an LNG facility at Sabine Pass in Cameron Parish, Louisiana and to Freeport LNG–both developed by Cheniere Energy Partners. The initial LNG shipment is needed for cool-down, according to the facility’s Charles Reimer.

“LNG is a gas that is at minus 263 degree Fahrenheit temperature, and so we have to get the entire processing portion of the facility down to that temperature and we use an LNG cargo to be able to do that.”

These are the first LNG terminals to be built in the United States in more than 20 years. Reimer says the U.S. uses more natural gas than it produces, so we have to import.

“There’s a large number of countries throughout the world that have excess natural gas reserves–principally north African, west African, Trinidad & Tobago–convert it into liquified natural gas, deliver it to the United States. There are a handful of receiving terminals that are existing in the United States, another handful are being built.”

The terminal is six miles from open water off a 45-foot deep ship channel, sufficient to accomodate all existing LNG carriers and the largest vessels currently planned for construction. The Coast Guard’s David Berliner says there are chartered security zones around the terminal.

“Since the inception of the idea of Freeport LNG, the Coast Guard’s been involved with the process to ensure that it’s as safe and secure as possible.” Ed: “And what did that involve?” “Well, that involves reviewing the facility security plans, and ensure that it complies with the applicable security regulations, and also we were part, helped out the FERC with their review of the emergency response plan for the facility.”

LNG is stored in specially engineered and constructed double-walled storage tanks. Mark Mallett is vice president of construction and operations.

“These are our two LNG tanks, and each tank can hold up to 160,000 cubic meters of LNG each. And we bring the LNG from the dock off of the ship and store it in these two tanks at a little less than four pounds of pressure. And that’s where keep the LNG until we’re ready to pump it out pump it up the pipeline pressure, vaporize it and send it out into our gas pipeline.” Ed: “How thick are those walls?” “The concrete walls are about 30 inches, and then there’s a space that we have insulation in that’s about two-and-a-half to three feet, and then we have the inner tank, the nine percent nickel tank that actually holds the LNG.”

For project manager Charles Riemer, everything’s been pointing to this cool-down shipment.

“It’s been a tremendously satisfying project to see it from conception–which occurred in the summer of 2000–move it through the development stages, getting it ready to be permitted, permitting it, and now going through three years of construction, and being involved with the next couple of years as we start up the plant, and put in place the people that are necessary to operate the plant smartly and safely.”

Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.