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Fearing catastrophe, national nonprofit asks Broward to ban LNG shipments at Port Everglades

lng shipments
lng shipments
What can happen. A burned-out truck after an explosion and fire at the Williams Companies LNG plant in Plymouth, Wash., in 2014. The fire, determined to be caused by “operator error,” resulted in $45.7 million in damage. The failure site is in the rear. Photo: U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

By Ann Henson Feltgen, FloridaBulldog.org

Reacting to a significant increase in the transport of highly volatile liquefied natural gas (LNG) through Broward to Port Everglades for export, a nationwide nonprofit watchdog has asked the county commission to close the port to all future LNG shipments.

“If a puncture occurs in an LNG container from an accident, a vapor cloud can form which has the potential to cause an explosion,” Michelle Allen, regional deputy director of Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch, wrote in a Jan. 13 letter. “The handling of large quantities of LNG at Port Everglades, as well as the transport of LNG through Broward County by rail and truck, is flirting with disaster.”

If ignited by flames from an accident, Allen wrote, “a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE) may occur, producing a fireball up to a mile wide, killing all within the immediate vicinity and overwhelming our local emergency services.”

Port Everglades Director Jonathan Daniels

New Fortress Energy has been exporting LNG via rail and trucks from its Hialeah Liquifier Plant through Port Everglades since 2016. Every week the plant turns natural gas, predominantly methane, into flammable LNG for shipment to Jamaica.

What prompted the organization’s concern was a Sept. 30 letter from John Fontenot, director of vessels for New Fortress Energy (NFE), to Port Everglades Director Jonathan Daniels about how the company was about to more than double its LNG shipments through the port. The letter and other documents followed a public records request.

Previously, Fontenot wrote, New Fortress had 13 double-walled LNG ISO tank containers for export, mostly at the port’s South Terminal. “We will haul 30 filled LNG ISO tanks…from Port Everglades to Jamaica where those 30 ISO tanks would be removed from the vessel,” emptied and reloaded for shipment back to Port Everglades…”This turn around is approximately 8 days. During the 8 day transit, full LNG ISO tanks will be delivered by truck from the NFE Liquefier in Miami (about 5 trucks per day) swapping out the empty ISO tanks with the full ISO tanks, so that when the vessel arrives back into Port Everglades, 30 full ISO tanks will be waiting…The cycle would then start again.”

But Daniels expressed no concerns about safety in an interview Monday. “The Broward County Sheriff’s Office is the agency that handles fire and hazmat at the port,” Daniels said. “They wrote the plan to handle LNG and evaluated the program. BSO has Station 6 here at the port and they have been trained to relate to LNG fires and other heavy fuels.”

LNG SHIPMENTS ON TRACK IN FLORIDA

Broward Mayor Michael Udine said that the port director is writing a letter to Food & Water Watch to answer questions. The matter is not on the next commission agenda, and it is too late to submit any agenda items, he added.

“I really don’t know much about this and I want to see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it,” said Udine.

Broward Mayor Michael Udine

Commissioner Beam Furr, whose district includes the port, said he glanced at the letter from Food & Water Watch and would look into it, though he has limited knowledge about LNG at the port.

The Biden Administration’s Proposed Rule suspended transporting LNG by rail last August and asked a task force to review the safety issue and bring back recommendations. This was Biden’s response to former President Donald Trump’s effort to fast-track LNG transport by rail.

While LNG shipments by train stopped elsewhere, Trump issued special permits to haul LNG that were exempt from Biden’s rule and moratorium. Freight trucks have been hauling LNG for years in similar containers.

Energy Transport Solutions, a subsidiary of NFE, was issued two special permits by Trump to haul LNG by rail. Of the two permits, one was for an LNG plant in Hialeah to send LNG to ports in Miami, Jacksonville or anywhere else in Florida. The second permit was for a plant in Pennsylvania, which is not yet operating. A third permit previously issued to a plant in Alaska is no longer in use.

Meanwhile, Biden’s task force completed the first of two phases of its investigation into LNG shipments by rail. It will complete its work on phase two in mid-2022, according to the docket. Public comments ended in December 2021.

LNG SHIPMENTS INCREASE DESPITE FEARS

Food & Water Watch and other watchdog organizations as well as other experts in the field have been raising concerns about the corridor routes through heavily populated areas such as South Florida. LNG is combustible natural gas that is chilled to -260° F, where it becomes a compact liquid allowing more gas to be shipped per load. An uncontrolled release, however, could cause a fire or explosion.

lng shipments
LNG ISO containers loaded for export

Last year NFE shipped 13 containers carrying 130,000 gallons of LNG from Port Everglades to Jamaica on a weekly basis. One 40-foot ISO container can accommodate 10,000 gallons of LNG, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. NFE’s new project greatly increases the sale of LNG to Jamaica, sending 30 containers with 300,000 gallons of LNG weekly.

Ellen Kennedy, spokeswoman for Port Everglades, said: “We’ve seen an increase in exports of LNG since 2017. In 2017 a total of 213 40-foot containers of LNG left the port and in 2021 the number increased to 1,785 containers.” She added that she didn’t know too much about LNG.

“The U.S. Coast Guard and City of Hollywood and the port’s emergency management vetted the increase proposal and made suggestions to assure safety,” she said.

However, the International Association of Fire Fighters believes otherwise, as do the nearly 10,000 responders who posted their thoughts of Biden’s proposed rule in the Federal Register here.

FIRE FIGHTERS CONCERNED

General President Edward A. Kelly of the International Association of Fire Fighters represents 325,000 full-time fire fighters and paramedics who protect more than 85 percent of the population in communities throughout the United States and Canada. He said that most fire departments do not have enough staffing or training to handle an LNG fire.

“According to the recently released National Fire Protection Association report, the Fifth Fire Service Needs Assessment Survey, fire departments across America lack sufficient staffing to respond to catastrophic Hazmat incidents, such as an LNG rail car rupture,’’ he said. “In particular, fire departments serving communities of 25,000 or less face the most dire staffing deficiencies, often responding to emergencies with 12 fire fighters or less.”

D.  Joe Griffin, General Counsel for TriSMART Solar, made several other points: “We live a block from a rail line that runs along the Mississippi. One spill or explosion would wipe out everything.

“The transportation of LNG by rail endangers communities and accelerates the climate crisis rather than combat(s) it.

“LNG is hazardous and highly flammable. In the event of a railway accident, it can lead to an inextinguishable fire that local emergency responders are ill-equipped to handle, putting communities bordering the railway route – often unfairly burdened by pollution – in harm’s way,” he said.

While New Fortress Energy ramps up LNG shipments, Food & Water Watch says it will continue its drive to stop sending LNG by rail.

“The evidence is clear – LNG is a danger to our communities and climate. We shouldn’t be moving it through our communities and we shouldn’t be selling it out of our ports,” said Allen. “The Broward County Commission must exercise its role in keeping residents safe, by directing Port Everglades to not accept LNG at the port.”

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Latest comments

  • I’m usually skeptical of non-profits trying to stop industries or companies from conducting their businesses because the majority are backed by corporations with competing interests and ulterior motives. However, Food & Water Watch seems to be legit since they claim to not accept government and corporate donations.

  • Where to begin ? There is a lot of misinformation here. Deliberate or poorly researched I do not know.

    How can private citizen Trump issue special permits exempt from Bidens rule ? Trump is not the president. He cannot bypass the Biden Regimes orders.

    The writer states:
    “While LNG shipments by train stopped elsewhere, Trump issued special permits to haul LNG that were exempt from Biden’s rule and moratorium. Freight trucks have been hauling LNG for years in similar containers”

    My perspective:
    Rail lines have been carrying volatile gases and chemicals for nearly a century in relative safety. Cryogenic gases of all kinds, Acids, and Caustics, to name a few.

    Tanker trucks daily carry Gasoline, Liquid Hydrogen, Liquid Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide, Liquid Nitrogen, Sulfuric Acid, Ammonia Gas and others on our roadways. Every Hospital gets weekly delivery of Liquid Oxygen. All these chemicals and products present hazards to life and property.

    These products are essential for 21st century living. Training for first responders is essential and must be ongoing for every hazard. Safety is everyones business or should be. Firefighters should be trained to deal with all unique hazards present in their area of responsibility. Often its the industries using these chemicals that pay for such training.

    Those referred to in the article as fearful of this technology and dont want it in their city present no basis other than a personal fear. One industrial accident does not make the technology unsafe. If it did cars and airplanes would be banned.

    This guy, D. Joe Griffin, General Counsel for TriSMART Solar, made several other points: “We live a block from a rail line that runs along the Mississippi. One spill or explosion would wipe out everything.”

    Hes either stupid or has an agenda. Dozens of other highly volatile chemicals are carried on the same rails as LNG. Yet he is unconcerned about those chemicals.

    Another ignorant statement: “The evidence is clear – LNG is a danger to our communities and climate. We shouldn’t be moving it through our communities and we shouldn’t be selling it out of our ports,”

    Where did this guy get his ideas ? There is no evidence LNG is any more dangerous than the millions of gallons of gasoline that is shipped into and stored at Port Everglades daily.

    What is LNG ? Its Natural Gas, the stuff many cook with, and Power Plants use to produce electricity. Plastics and other things are made from it. LNG is super cooled Natural Gas so it becomes a liquid. Where pipelines dont exist, one can store and transport more Natural Gas for if it is liquified.

    In Port Everglades is a high pressure gas line. As in over 500 PSI. So are huge storage tanks containing gasoline. South Floridas gasoline comes thru the Port. Same for Propane that everyone uses to BBQ. These terminals in Port Everglsdes are safely operated with near zero accidents. They present dangers if course. But these fear mongers want to use these products and benefit from them but want the terminals and factories in the other guys backyard.

    This article presents no references for the reader to validate the assertions. Few facts if any and lots of emotion are presented. To me it reads as propaganda. No statistics of accident rates or injury are presented.

    Mention of a fire at a plant and pics of the aftermath are not statistics. One low probability event is not sufficient to ban an industry. It it were you would still be living in a cave burning animal fat for light.

    Do your own research. Learn for yourself.

    I do not represent the LNG industry or have a financial inteterest in this company. I have worked over 20 years in industrial process controls and have worked with LNG. Transport of these products is safer to human life than driving a car in Fort Lauderdale.

  • ERRATA
    Since I cannot edit my post here is an edit.

    I wrote :
    Tanker trucks daily carry Gasoline, Liquid Hydrogen, Liquid Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide, Liquid Nitrogen, Sulfuric Acid, Ammonia Gas and others on our roadways. Every Hospital gets weekly delivery of Liquid Oxygen.

    ……….. All these chemicals and products present hazards to life and property.”

    should say:

    “All these chemicals and products present potential hazards to life and property as do all chemicals in daily use”

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