Piping in Gas as Our Demand Rises
Plans for an offshore port to transport liquefied gas to Port Manatee
A ship serving as an offshore port will warm the liquefied gas enough to
send it through a pipeline to shore.
Demand for natural gas in Florida has been rising by about 7.3% each year since 2001, and the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council predicts another 22% climb over the next decade.
Currently, Florida gets much of its gas via pipelines that link the state’s Gulf coast with processing plants in Louisiana and Texas. But a Norwegian shipping company, Hoegh LNG, is preparing to spend $1 billion to build a natural gas receiving port 28.8 miles offshore from the mouth of Tampa Bay.
The project, called Port Dolphin, includes a 41-mile pipeline that will link the offshore facility to a receiving facility in Port Manatee. It won preliminary approval last December from the federal Energy Regulatory Commission and also has the blessing of Gov. Charlie Crist, who weighed in as part of the federal approval process. To blunt potential local opposition, the firm agreed to pay up to $11 million for beach renourishment projects in Manatee County and Longboat Key.
German Castro, Port Dolphin’s development manager, says the key to the project is two massive tanker ships. The vessels are outfitted with equipment that cools the gas to 260 degrees below zero — the temperature at which it becomes a liquid. The gas will come from Trinidad, Angola, Norway, the Gulf of Mexico and other areas.
The ships will transport the liquefied gas to the offshore port, where it will be warmed enough to be pumped through a pipeline to shore. Castro says the process is cheaper than building a regasification plant on land; in addition, the gasification ships, each costing $300 million, are too big to fit under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge at the mouth of Tampa Bay.
Castro expects the ships, port and pipeline will be operational by 2013. Initially, he says 400 million cubic feet of natural gas will pass through the port each day, with plans to double capacity to 800 million cubic feet. Eventually, he says, the port could handle as much as 1.2 billion cubic feet each day.