California Struggles with Proposed LNG Facilities

Sixty miles north of Los Angeles, along the Ventura County coast, has become a battlefield between energy companies that want to build LNG terminals and environmentalists who want no part of it.

Three energy companies want to build two offshore LNG terminals near Oxnard and another in Long Beach Harbor. LNG is transported frozen at 206 degrees below zero, and then turned into liquid for distribution via pipelines.

There are no LNG plants along the U.S. West Coast. Shell and Bechtel, in 2002, had proposed plants in Vallejo, an upriver city from San Francisco, but the proposal was met with protests, as was Calpine Corp's efforts to put an LNG plant in Humboldt Bay in 2004.

While environmentalists have demanded that natural gas be used in California power plants because it is cleaner than oil or coal, they have mobilized to keep LNG plants from being built in California. Most of all of the LNG used in the state is brought in by pipelines from Canada and other Western states.

LNG is very explosive in its gaseous state, and opponents fear that an earthquake could cause a disaster. BHP Billiton, has proposed building a floating LNG terminal 14 miles off the Ventura coast. The 'Cabrillo Port' complex would be 973 feet long and 102 feet high. The LNG would be pumped to Oxnard by two pipelines on the ocean floor.

The BHP project would provide 800 million cubic feet of natural gas a day - 15 percent of California's entire demand. An environmental report on the project started an outcry from environmental groups, and the U.S. Coast Guard has requested a further study on the project.

A second project by Crystal Energy of Houston proposes to convert Platform Grace, an oil platform 12 miles off Oxnard, to an LNG terminal. A third project is proposed for Long Beach by Mitsubishi.