Australia, U.S. seafarer pact hopes to revive Ventura LNG project
The Maritime Union of Australia and the Seafarers’ International Union of North America today signed a solidarity agreement on the crewing of ships that would transport liquefied natural gas to the United States.
Leaders from the two unions believe the agreement could alleviate some of the safety concerns over a proposed LNG facility off the coast of Ventura by Australian mining giant BHP Billiton and resuscitate the project.
Paddy Crumlin, MUA national secretary, told the Australian Associated Press that it would be a 'big step forward' if those fighting against the BHP terminal knew that LNG delivery vessels would be crewed by quality, security screened professionals.
Crumlin also told the AAP that the $800 million BHP project wasn’t dead in the water, though offered no course of action BHP might be pursuing to get the effort back on track.
David Heindel, SIU national secretary treasurer, told the AAP that the U.S. Congress had recently amended the U.S. Deepwater Port Act to give “priority” to approving LNG facilities that would be supplied by U.S.-flagged vessels.
The labor agreement appears to have come a little too late, though, as last week's rejection of the BHP project by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger effectively killed the project. Short of legal action or federal intervention, both of which experts say are unlikely, Schwarzenegger's rejection seems to be the last word on the matter.
The BHP project, under development for more than four years, proposed to build a regasification terminal 14 miles offshore of Ventura County that would transform LNG back into natural gas and pump the gas via underwater pipelines into the state’s onshore gas pipeline system. A permit denied by state officials in April effectively prevented the building of the pipelines connecting any terminal to the shore. Construction of the offshore terminal itself also required an approved environmental impact report, which was also rejected in April.
A three-year effort to build a $300 million plant at the Port of Long Beach has also stalled amid safety and environmental concerns. Port officials removed their support of the project last month. The builder, Sound Energy Solutions, has filed suit to allow the project to move forward.
Long Beach City Council members last week heard a new proposal by Texas-based Esperanza Energy for the construction of two floating terminals about 15 miles off the coast of the city.
The energy firm's site would allow LNG vessels to unload their liquid cargo offshore, warm it back into a gas, and pipe the gas ashore through pipelines. An onshore facility would pump heated water to the terminals for the conversion.
The company warned that despite more than two years of work on the proposal, more work must be done before the firm turns to seeking required government approvals.
The council did not officially endorse the proposal, but indicated that they were amenable to the approach if the city benefited financially and the plan presented no environmental impact.