On Aug. 12 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is supposed to be impartially evaluating the impacts that liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals will have on South Texas, held a public hearing on three of the proposed projects.
While local residents and groups such as the Sierra Club and Save RGV from LNG were not allowed to speak up and publicly raise concerns inside the scoping hearing, Annova LNG, Texas LNG, and Rio Grande LNG were given the floor to present their one-sided sales pitches.
All three touted jobs, Jobs, JOBS.
None mentioned vapor clouds, freeze-burns, asphyxiation, or pool fires.
Annova LNG President David Chung wrote an op-ed that made LNG’s standard sales pitch, hard selling jobs and soft-pedaling safety. No need to worry about a spill, Chung wrote, because “As a liquid, LNG is not flammable or explosive. In the unlikely event of an LNG spill, on water or land, the LNG would vaporize and being to dissipate as soon as it is exposed to the air.”
End of story, as he tells it.
He stops there because the rest of the story, the full truth, might scare residents, and they in turn might ask the elected officials who have lined up behind LNG to pull their support for these projects, or at least start asking hard questions about safety.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which writes research reports for Congress, looked into what would happen if an LNG tank was breached. They found “individuals who come into contact with LNG could experience freeze-burns.”
The term “freeze-burns” didn’t make it into Mr. Chung’s sales pitch.
And despite what Annova and the other LNG companies claim, it does not just dissipate and disappear.
The GAO said that “as the liquid warms and changes into natural gas, if forms a visible, fog-like vapor cloud” and “this cloud could drift into populated areas.”
The GAO went on to warn that “because an LNG vapor cloud displaces the oxygen in the air, it could potentially asphyxiate people who come into contact with it.”
Mr. Chung forgot to mention asphyxiation.
As more of the liquefied gas vaporizes and mixes with oxygen, the vapor cloud can become larger and more dangerous.
It is true that as a liquid, methane is not flammable. But the same is true of gasoline. Toss a match into a bucket of gasoline (please do not toss a match into a bucket of gasoline!) and the liquid gas doesn’t burn. What burns is the vapor that is coming off of the gas and mixing with oxygen.
The same is true for LNG, and like gasoline liquefied methane begins to vaporize as soon as it is released.
One last quote from the Government Accountability Office:
“Like all natural gas, LNG vapors can be flammable […] If the LNG vapor cloud ignites, the resulting fire will burn back through the vapor cloud toward the initial spill. It will continue to burn above the LNG that has pooled on the surface – this is called a pool fire. Experiments have shown that LNG fires burn hotter than oil fires of the same size.”
Last year there was an LNG spill in Washington, and everyone within a two mile radius had to be evacuated. These LNG facilities will be within 2-3 miles of Port Isabel, and their tankers, up to 10 per week if all three facilities are built, will pass within 200 feet of Isla Blanca beach.
Annova LNG’s president wrote that, “We understand there is some confusion about LNG, some of it caused by misinformation.” But it is the LNG companies that have been spreading misinformation, particularly in regards to safety.
This is our home, this is our environment, this is the air that we and our children breathe, and the things that they are trying to hide from the public will have real health and safety impacts.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should require that these companies talk about critical issues of public health and safety, not give them a platform on which to spout half-truths and sales pitches.
Our elected officials, put in office to represent us, should likewise be working on our behalf.
So far neither has done so.
Until they decide to step up and do their jobs we need to be asking hard questions of these companies, and demanding that they provide complete, and completely honest, answers.
The Government Accountability Office report quoted in the above guest column can be read in full here.
The opinion piece by Annova LNG President David Chung referenced in the above guest column can be read in full here.