LNG, shorthand for liquefied natural gas, is gas that's been condensed into a liquid form by chilling it to approximately −162 °C (−260 °F). That gas is placed in LNG tankers, also known as "trains," then shipped off to lucrative global markets.
One LNG export terminal—Cheniere's Sabine Pass LNG export terminal, located in Sabine Pass, La.—has already received a federal permit from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). It is awaiting an obligatory rubber stamp from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Many other LNG export terminals are also in the works, with many new key pieces of the puzzle unfolding in the past week. Thus, a lengthy primer, starting in northwest North America and eventually, meandering southward toward Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, and then eventually heading northeast, is necessary to put the LNG export boom into a proper context.
A lesson in North American LNG export terminals is, in actuality, a lesson in the entire geography of the North American unconventional oil and gas infrastructure put on the map, so to speak, by the documentary film, “Gasland.”
The state of Alaska recently made a game-changing announcement for the oil and gas industry.
Prudhoe Bay, a port located in the Northern Slope area of Alaska—rather than serve merely as the beginning-point of a TransCanada tar sands pipeline, the Alaska Pipeline Project, which would have originated there and eventually ended up feeding into Alberta, Canada—will also serve as the end-point of a series of inter-Alaska pipelines running from Point Thomson oil and gas field, which is located roughly 60 miles east of Prudhoe Bay.
These pipelines will carry natural gas to an LNG export terminal in Prudhoe Bay, which will then feed a hungry Asian market with this lucrative prize. Reuters explained, "Exxon and partners BP and ConocoPhillips have agreed to build a pipeline from the field to deliver 70,000 barrels per day of liquids into the Trans Alaska Pipeline System."
The oil and gas industry, it seems, got the sweetest of sweetheart deals in this Faustian bargain with the Alaska state government this time around the block.
TransCanada Corporation (yes, that TransCanada) also won a license to ship much of the oil and gas piped to Prudhoe Bay southward toward Valdez, Alaska. Reuters wrote, "The deal is a boon for TransCanada, which plans to build a natural gas pipeline from Alaska's North Slope to the south coast, feeding a possible export plant that would ship gas to thirsty markets in Asia."
Point Thomson oil and gas field contains some 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to Reuters. In short, a hungry Asian market will be fed with plenty of fuel from Alaska's gas bounty to fulfill its burgeoning oil and gas needs.
Many observers thought that perhaps it was "game over" for the great game of LNG exports in the aftermath of the February 2011 closure of the Kenai LNG terminal, formerly run by ConocoPhillips and located in Kenai, Alaska, which is 136 miles west of Valdez.
They thought wrong. The fun, it appears, has only just begun in Alaska.
Kitimat, British Columbia
Kitimat, British Columbia is home to three LNG export facilities: the Kitimat LNG Facility, the B.C. LNG Facility, and a facility co-owned by Royal Dutch Shell and PetroChina. Kitimat LNG is co-owned by EnCana, EOG Resources and Apache, while B.C. LNG is run by Douglas Channel Energy Partnership in a complex co-ownership arrangement.
EnCana, EOG and Apache recently announced that it would have all of its ducks in the row by the end of 2012, speaking with regards to gaining capital investors in the project.
Once the investor terms of agreement are set, fracked unconventional gas is likely to begin its pipeline journey from Canada's Horn River Shale basin, via the Pacific Trail Pipelines, and head westward to Kitimat, where it will be placed in LNG trains and exported off to highly profitable Asian markets.
One would be wrong to assume the only major energy and climate battle Canada has on its hands is the tar sands project.
If only that were the case.
Coos Bay, Ore.
Coos Bay, Oregon—famous for being the hometown of the late long-distance running legend Steve Prefontaine—is the proposed home for the Jordan Cove LNG facility, and has been the epicenter of the backlash against the North American LNG export boom.
Jordan Cove will be the final destination for unconventional gas fracked and piped out of the Niobrara Shale basin, located in the states of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas. The shale gas obtained via the Niobrara, as of now, is carried out of the basin from the Ruby Pipeline, beginning in Opal, Wyoming and ending in Malin, Oregon.
PG&E Corporation, Williams Companies and Veresen U.S. Power Inc. are co-owners of a hotly contested proposed 234-mile long pipeline, the Pacific Connector. This pipeline, which would carry fracked gas from Malin, Ore. to Coos Bay, home of the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal, is awaiting federal approval.
Not only has there been citizen backlash against both the pipeline and the LNG export terminal, but furthermore, Oregon's federal-level representatives—including U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D) and U.S. Rep. Peter Defazio (D)—have voiced strong concern about the project, introducing legislation in the attempt to block both LNG exports and the pipeline.
Corpus Christi, Texas
On March 14, Cheniere announced it would be filing for its second LNG export terminal in July or August of this year, this one in the scenic city of Corpus Christi, Texas, 250 miles west of Cheniere's already existing Sabine Pass LNG export terminal.
"Corpus Christi would comprise three production trains, or units, all with the capacity to export 4.5 million tonnes per year of LNG," Reuters explained.
The terminal would take gas fracked from the Eagle Ford Shale, carried over via pipeline, and place it on the European gas export market.
105 miles southwest of Sabine Pass is the site of another proposed LNG export facility in the small city of Freeport, Texas, which has a population of 12,049, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.
This LNG facility is co-owned by Cheniere, Dow Chemical, Osaka Gas and ConocoPhillips. The facility applied for a DOE export license in January 2012 and is the subject of an environmental review by FERC.
The grassroots activist group, Stop Freeport LNG, is fighting tooth and nail to keep the LNG facility out of their community.
Fracking for "National Security" Exposed
This geography lesson, if nothing else, exposes the lie that fracking for unconventional oil and gas in shale basins around North America has anything at all to do with "national security" concerns.
Though the industry has a slogan that reads, "Drill A Gas Well, Bring A Soldier Home," the truth is far more complex than that easy-to-digest propaganda. The industry, as this article has made clear, is building up a complex armada of pipelines and LNG terminals, putting the "national security" lie to rest.
If the "propaganda table" had four legs to stand on, then this table is no longer standing and at this point in history, is merely a tabletop.
For more information, click here.
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Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
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<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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