An explosion that occurred at liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Washington State has opponents of the proposed expansion of a facility in Calvert County calling for additional safety assessments.
The explosion at the facility in Plymouth, WA occurred March 31 and injured five workers. That plant is owned by Williams Partners, part of the company that previously owned Cove Point LNG Plant in Lusby. The plant was sold to Dominion over 12 years ago.
Dominion plans to construct a liquefaction unit at Cove Point, a project that will cost an estimated $3.8 billion. The new unit will give Dominion the capability to export natural gas from the plant’s terminal on the Chesapeake Bay. The project is currently under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC).
An organization called Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community issued a press release Monday, April 7 demanding “a full and quantitative risk assessment of Cove Point hazards—including explosion risks—especially given the LNG export facility would be the first ever located so close to so many people.”
The citizens group is calling on FERC to complete “an objective and transparent quantitative risk assessment for Dominion’s proposed LNG export facility.”
A spokesman for FERC, Tamara Young-Allen, said “safety and reliability” are among the issues being assessed in a report on the Cove Point project due to be released next month. Young-Allen said FERC officials will list various incidents that occurred at similar facilities and suggest strategies for mitigating any environmental impacts. “All issues are taken into consideration,” she stated.
According to a report by Reuters News Service, the initial assessment of company officials investigating last week’s explosion in Washington State determined a “processing vessel” exploded and flying debris “pierced the double walls of a 134-foot LNG tank on site, causing leaks,” the report stated. Authorities evacuated residents living within a two-mile radius of the plant until the threat of a second explosion could be safely ruled out.
Experts have confirmed with Reuters that such incidents at LNG facilities have been infrequent.
The press release from the citizens’ group stated that like the Plymouth facility, Cove Point uses “single containment tanks. Dominion spokesman Karl Neddenien said, however, “they are not using the term of the industry.” He explained Cove Point uses “cryogenic tanks,” which consists of outer metal and insulation. Neddenien says most of the LNG industry uses such tanks and the Cove Point tanks are of a “completely acceptable design.”