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Liquefied Natural Gas Projects in Oregon

Liquefied natural gas

Liquefied natural gas, commonly referred to as LNG, is natural gas that is super-cooled to a liquid at a temperature of minus 260 degrees.  Natural gas fed into an LNG processing plant (like those proposed for construction in Oregon) is treated to remove water, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and other components that would otherwise freeze during the cooling process.
Typically, LNG contains more than 90 percent methane. It also contains small amounts of ethanepropanebutane, some heavier alkenes, and nitrogen. As a result of the cooling process, the volume of gas is significantly reduced, making LNG transportation more economical than if it were in its gaseous state.  After transport, the LNG is reheated, at which point the volume increases. In the cases of both projects proposed for Oregon, LNG will be transported for export via LNG carrier ships.  Natural gas will come into the facilities via pipelines, the construction of which is an element to both projects.

DEQ’s role

All LNG facilities proposed for construction in Oregon require a variety of environmental permit, land-use, construction and other approvals from many local, state and federal jurisdictions – of which DEQ is one. In Oregon, LNG projects require DEQ and other state agencies to coordinate the application of environmental law with the Oregon Department of Energy.  DEQ is responsible for drafting, issuing and ensuring compliance with environmental permits.
Generally, DEQ regulates businesses and industries to ensure they meet applicable environmental laws. Applicants for DEQ permits first must submit complete applications. Once received, DEQ develops draft permits.  Permit conditions depend upon the level and nature of pollutants.  For most permit applications, DEQ hosts public information meetings and public hearings to solicit comments. It is important to understand that if an applicant can prove they comply with these laws, DEQ must issue permits for them to operate. If they cannot prove that they meet these standards, DEQ does not issue the requested permits.

How LNG projects are permitted

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is responsible for deciding where to allow a liquefied natural gas facility to operate.  If a facility gains federal approval, a number of state agencies review applicable permit applications. The Oregon Department of Energy is playing a coordinating role on behalf of the state. The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development also reviews the facility to determine whether the project is consistent with Oregon’s Coastal Zone Management Act.

Liquefied natural gas spill response in Oregon

Under Oregon law, the definition of oil or oils includes liquefied natural gas. Therefore, any business that wants to transfer 10,000 gallons or more of liquefied natural gas from a facility or a vessel over water must have a DEQ-approved spill contingency plan. DEQ has not finalized spill cleanup standards or methods specifically for large releases from a liquefied natural gas facility or vessel. Therefore, if when a business asks to conduct a transfer of liquefied natural gas facility over water, DEQ would seek to change rules based on the best available cleanup practices known for liquefied natural gas.
At a minimum, several existing spill response requirements are likely to remain. DEQ would require a business that has a spill to immediately notify Oregon Emergency Response. DEQ will require a business to prepare to manage a spill by participating in spill scenario tabletop drills including a worst case drill at least once every three years.