Lusby, MD – While opponents of the multi-billion dollar construction project underway at Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Plant in Lusby have consistently harped on several objections, the company assembling the equipment needed to export gas to foreign countries has offered responses. On Monday, Sept. 28, Dominion officials briefed members of the local media on the project’s progress and provided a tour of the construction site.

Everything from muffling the noise the $3.8 billion liquefaction unit will produce to the mud a multitude of work vehicles have left on Cove Point Road appear to have been addressed.

According to Dominion Vice President of Construction Bob McKinley, the project worksite has a recordable incident rate that is far below the norms of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. McKinley said approximately 2.5 million man hours have been logged at the project sites since the project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) exactly one year ago.

The building of a liquefaction facility at Cove Point has been billed as Maryland’s largest construction project. McKinley said the average project laborer works a 10 hour shift five or six days a week. The construction workforce totals 1,162 with 760 on-site craft workers. About half the workers are Southern Maryland residents, McKinley said. Next spring the project will reach its peak of construction. Over 1,200 workers will be on-site for about a month.

The earthwork and foundation segment of the project is nearing completion, McKinley explained. Equipment—components of the terminal, which includes gas turbines and compressors—is now being assembled. Five tower cranes are on-site and McKinley said eventually 50 cranes of various sizes will be in operation.

Another big component nearing completion is the large, thick sound wall. “We’re required to meet certain sound requirements by FERC,” said McKinley, who added that Dominion will be well within the compliance parameters.

Another project aspect that had local residents worried has apparently occurred without any major issues. To date, all 18 “heavy hauls” from Dominion’s Patuxent River pier next to the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge to the construction site off Cove Point Road have been completed successfully.

“They’ve gone very well, no issues,” McKinley declared. “We’ve had tremendous cooperation from the State Highway Administration and the police, very good coordination.”

One of the bigger heavy hauls will be taking place in a few weeks. The new facility’s main cryogenic heat exchanger, a component that will be the tallest structure on the site, will arrive by barge and be transported to the plant.

“That will be a neat one to watch,” said Dominion Vice President of LNG Operations Mike Frederick.

Company officials are also trying to address the clamor among local residents for an alternate route should there be a need to evacuate the area. Frederick said Dominion’s plan to construct a bypass road is currently in the permit stage. A contractor has been identified. “As soon as we get the permitting we’ll start construction,” said Frederick. The new road, which will be gated and only used in the event of an emergency, will subsequently link the lower portion of Cove Point Road with Little Cove Point Road and allow motorists to bypass driving by the plant.

Keeping Cove Point Road cleaner after loud complaints—including several from a county commissioner—about mud that work trucks exiting the plant were tracking on the roadway is being handled by an on-site wheel wash and street sweepers.

Frederick said Dominion is continuing to offer free car washes to area residents who feel soil and mud traced to the construction work has made their vehicle dirty.

Recently, Frederick announced Dominion plans to add a fire brigade at the plant. He explained four or five employees would be on shift throughout the day. Those individuals would have specialized training, some of which will be provided by the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute. 

Frederick also briefly responded to the skeptics who believe the liquefaction project is on shaky financial ground. He pointed out that Dominion already has signed 20-year terminal service agreements with companies in India and Japan. The exportation of LNG from Cove Point is projected to boost the economy for the U.S., the State of Maryland and Calvert County.

“The global economy is not going to affect this project,” said Frederick. “It may affect some LNG facilities but not this one.”

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com