Feds rush toward LNG in Coos Bay

The state of Oregon is fighting federal efforts to push through a liquid natural gas terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon, reports Ted Sickinger of The Oregonian.

The Jordan Cove Energy Project terminal is being developed by Fort Chicago Energy Partners LP and Energy Projects Development LLC to import up to 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day, mostly for customers in Northern California.

That supercooled natural gas, which would also be sold to Pacific Northwest buyers, would travel through a 234-mile long Pacific Connector pipeline to be built over forests and marshlands.

Opponents include the state of Oregon, environmentalists and landowners who  say the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the LNG terminal in Coos Bay without fully studying the environmental effects of building the infrastructure to pump gas from the Coos Bay terminal to California via an interstate gas pipeline near Malin, Oregon.  The feds also gave too much power to the developers to condemn private property, they say.

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Attorney General John Kroger vowed to press the commission to reconsider, and held out the possibility of appealing to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  They've done so already with another commission-approved LNG terminal on the lower Columbia River.

B.C. natives: Freighter grounding shows folly of shipping tar sands oil through coastal rainforest

A freighter's grounding in the labyrinthine back bays of northern British Columbia shows what a dumb idea it would be to ship oil from Alberta's tar sands area through the area in the Great Bear Rainforest, a band of natives says.

The Gitga'at First Nation pointed to the grounding of the 41,000-ton Petersfield, loaded with soda ash and lumber products, as evidence that supertankers carrying oil have no place in the fragile backcountry waters. The vessel is nearly as long as two football fields.

The best story on the whole affair comes from Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail, who traced it to a problem with the vessel's gyroscope that affected a number of systems on the bridge, including steering.  The Gitga'at observed in a press release:

The ship currently docked at Kitimat looking like a prizefighter with a broken nose is an ugly reminder of the threat posed by proposed pipelines and tanker traffic to the territory of the Gitga'at First Nation.

Canadian and American environmentalists have long  complained that developing Alberta's tar sands -- aka "oil sands" -- would unleash far too many greenhouse gases

Enbridge Pipelines, meanwhile, is planning  construct a pipeline to ship oil from Alberta to British Columbia, where it could be loaded onto tankers for transport to refineries on the West coast. Or, as became apparent recently when a Chinese government-owned firm bought into tar-sands development, the stuff could be shipped all the way to China.

Can proposed North Slope gas pipeline take on competition?

The proposed North Slope gas pipeline hit another bump yesterday when a Calgary-based global energy consultant counted down multiple obstacles hindering the success of the project, reports Elizabeth Bluemink of the Anchorage Daily News.
One of the prime concerns was competition between the proposed pipeline, which is planned to run from Alaska through Canada to the lower United States, and cheaper gas found at basins in the lower 48 near metropolitan areas. The consultant said tight control of costs associated with the pipeline project would be the only way to stay in the competition.
The project is being pursued by two separate business groups with holdings in on the North Slope. BP and Conoco Phillips have partnered in promoting the Denali Gas Pipeline, while TransCanada and ExxonMobil are developing plans for their own Alaska Pipeline Project. Vice President Tony Palmer of TransCanada hopes the two projects eventually will merge, according to the article.
Gas prices are down right now, which means even some drills in the Lower 48 have temporarily stopped. The corporations involved in the project are optimistic. They expect natural gas prices will rise in 2010, making the North Slope project competitive again.
InvestigateWest reported earlier on the proposed Alaska pipeline here.
-- Emily Linroth

North Slope drilling continues, affects birds

ExxonMobil completed drilling its second well on Alaska's North Slope, reports the Associated Press. Both wells in Point Thomson, a natural gas and condensatefield, are expected to be drilled to their final depths by the end of 2010. The field contains an estimated 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is only 25 percent of the North Slope's resources. ExxonMobil plans to cycle gas by injecting it back into the reservoir, making it the largest gas cycling plant worldwide. It also plans to connect a pipeline to the TransAlaska Pipeline System.

The gas in Point Thomson is crucial for the development of a proposed multi-billion dollar pipelinethrough Canada and into the lower 48 states. ExxonMobil is backing TransCanada Corp. in the creation of the pipeline, and BP and Conoco Phillips are working on their own pipeline project, called Denali, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Development of the North Slope has spawned controversy for years about the cost of the pipeline necessary to get the gas out, as well as environmental impacts. A recent study shows the massive project has had a negative impact on birds who nest in the area, reportsAndrew C. Revkin in the New York Times.

– Emily Linroth

Obama administration approves pipeline for Alberta tar sands, skirts climate issue

I'm not finding a lot of coverage of a really important decision made by the Obama administration yesterday to allow construction of a pipeline to help move synthetic crude oil from the Alberta tar sands into the United States.

[caption id="attachment_2997" align="alignright" width="226" caption="Suncor Millenium Mine north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Photo by David Dodge, The Pembina Institute"]Suncor Millenium Mine north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Photo by David Dodge, The Pembina Institute[/caption]

Perhaps it's just that the decision by the U.S. State Department was expected. Or maybe it's that a deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually made the decision Aug. 3 but waited until  these doggiest of the dog days to let the world know.

In any case, Steven Mufson of The Washington Post has the best story I've been able to find this side of the border, while Sheila McNulty's daily was a worthwhile follow to her earlier in-depth reporting on the tar sands for the Financial Times (registration required). And for more background, don't miss National Geographic's treatment.

Folks, this is one to watch carefully. We're talking about the largest proven petroleum reserve outside Saudi Arabia.