Port LNG proposal off table

BY ROB MAETZIG
Last updated 05:00 02/07/2009

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One of Taranaki's most controversial energy projects will not be going ahead.

Energy giants Contact and Genesis have pulled the plug on plans to build a $600 million liquefied natural gas terminal at Port Taranaki.

Instead their 50:50 Gasbridge joint venture is turning its attention to developing new-age LNG facilities out to sea - and well away from New Plymouth residents deeply concerned over the potential dangers of the terminal being developed at the city's port.

Yesterday the project's opponents hailed the decision as a common sense solution.

"That's great - it's great for New Plymouth's safety, and for the ongoing security of energy supply," said engineer Keith Allum who has been one of the most vocal critics.

Steve Pivac, a member of Burning Bridges, an organisation set up by New Plymouth residents with concern about the LNG project, was thrilled with the decision.

"It makes a hell of a lot more sense," Mr Pivac said.

"Everyone (in Burning Bridges) will be very pleased with that decision."

The group's primary goal when it was set up was the safety of New Plymouth residents and if new LNG facilities were out at sea then Mr Pivac said that was a more sensible option.

"It's almost standard procedure in the United States these days and a far better option, it makes a hell of a lot more sense.

"Safety has always been the primary interest but secondly the strategic direction of the country," Mr Pivac said.

Yesterday Genesis and Contact representatives were busy outlining their new plans to organisations and individuals in Taranaki and Wellington.

But they were pointing out the change of mind was not so much the result of public concern over the project, but because development of the latest technology meant it would be more cost-effective to develop the LNG facilities offshore.

"Technical options have moved along at pace since Gasbridge began this feasibility study - and the offshore floating option is now far more attractive and feasible," said Genesis public affairs manager Richard Gordon in New Plymouth.

Gasbridge planning for the Port Taranaki terminal had reached a stage where it was poised to file resource consent applications for the project with the Taranaki Regional Council.

The joint venture had forecast that LNG imports would be required by 2014, which would be when local gas demand would overtake local supply.

But over recent years several new gas sources have been brought to market - primarily Pohokura, Turangi, further Maui gas and soon Kupe - which have pushed out to 2018 the projected date for gas to have to begin to be imported.

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"For that reason we have decided not to lodge the consent applications for the onshore terminal," said Mr Gordon.

"That plan is now officially on hold."

Gasbridge has been monitoring LNG technology developments worldwide, with particular focus on offshore floating options, he said.

These days many LNG carriers had their own regasification facilities, which meant that instead of discharging the LNG in liquid form to storage facilities on the shore, they simply anchored offshore where they converted the LNG back to gas and pumped it into subsea pipelines.

Such facilities had already been developed off the USA, the United Kingdom and Italy, said Mr Gordon.

He added that development of offshore LNG facilities would be less expensive and take less time.

Whereas it had been estimated the Port Taranaki project would take four years to complete, and offshore project would take around 18 months - at half the cost.

"So we believe we've got a few more years now to evaluate our options. We still believe a gas shortfall will develop, and that we are likely to have to import LNG - but now there is less immediate pressure."

- Taranaki Daily News

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