The Times-Picayune: Alliance asks Shell to modify LNG port: Current system called threat to fisheries: “An alliance of conservation and fishing organizations took aim at Shell Corp. on Wednesday, calling on the company to modify a planned natural gas port in the Gulf of Mexico that is considered a threat to Louisiana's fishing industry.” (ShellNews.net) Posted 15 April 05
By Matthew Brown
West Bank bureau
An alliance of conservation and fishing organizations took aim at Shell Corp. on Wednesday, calling on the company to modify a planned natural gas port in the Gulf of Mexico that is considered a threat to Louisiana's fishing industry.
Shell, a Netherlands-based corporation with $18.2 billion in profits last year, is one of at least six companies pursuing offshore ports in the Gulf to service a growing thirst for natural gas in the United States.
Because the fuel is brought in on tanker ships in a supercooled, liquefied state, those ports are being designed to suck up hundreds of millions of gallons of seawater daily to reheat the fuel into a gas before piping it ashore.
Over opposition from the National Marine Fisheries Service and other agencies that say such "open-loop" reheating systems would capture and kill untold numbers of fish eggs, plankton and other marine life, Shell was granted a federal license for its $700 million port, Gulf Landing, in February.
Additional licenses will be considered in coming months by the Coast Guard and the U.S. Maritime Administration. Opponents hope to prod the oil and gas industry to adopt alternative gas reheating methods that won't kill marine life.
"If we stop Shell, it will be easier to stop ChevronTexaco, to stop ConocoPhillips," national Sierra Club President Larry Fahn said Wednesday morning at a rally on the steps of One Shell Square, the company's main offices in Louisiana. "It would take one day's profit of this multinational corporation to close the loop, and they're telling us they can't do that."
Closed-loop systems use artificial heat to turn liquefied natural gas back into its natural state. They are cheaper to build but cost more to operate because of fuel costs.
Two other open-loop ports already have been approved. But Shell's has been the most high-profile, in part because of its proposed location: 38 miles off the Louisiana coast in the heart of one of the most productive fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gulf Landing project director Greg Koehler said Wednesday that Shell remains committed to using seawater to reheat its gas. Koehler also said the company is "obligated" to an open-loop system under its new license.
Under pressure from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the license was granted on the condition that Shell track environmental impacts beginning three years prior to the port's planned 2010 startup. Koehler said that would ensure minimal harm comes to Louisiana's marine fishing industry.
"We think we can operate this safely without harming the environment," Koehler said. "If there are changes to be made, we can do that through changes to the operations or through mitigation. . . . If there's an impact on fish eggs, we will address that. Hatcheries are one option; artificial reefs are another."
Other participants in Wednesday's rally against the company included the New Orleans-based Gulf Restoration Network, the Louisiana Charter Boat Association, and about a dozen recreational and commercial fishers.
It was staged just blocks from a two-day industry conference -- LNG New Orleans 2005 -- that included sessions on siting new ports to unload liquefied natural gas. The U.S. Maritime Administration and Coast Guard were given authority over such ports by Congress in 2002 in order to streamline the growth of the natural gas industry.
Mark Prescott, director of deep-water ports for the Maritime Administration, said the licensing process weighs not just environmental impacts but issues of national security and economics.
"If it was based entirely on what is best for fish, I don't think we'd be having this discussion," Prescott said.
Matthew Brown can be reached at email@example.com
or (504) 826-3784.
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