US clears Yemen LNG shipments.
LIQUIFIED natural gas shipments from Yemen have been cleared by the US Coast Guard for entry into the Distrigas terminal in Everett outside Boston, in the face of local opposition.
BW Gas and Höegh LNG ships chartered by Distrigas owner GDF Suez would begin calling from Yemen from the end of February. The move would come at increased cost for both the company and the US Coast Guard, which have had to add extra security checks to the shipment trains.
Carol Churchill, Distrigas manager of communications, refused to divulge the date and identity of the first LNG ship from Yemen. Distrigas charters its LNG tonnage from only two owners, BW Gas and Höegh.
Ms Churchill refused to provide a cost estimate for the extra security, which entails an ?extra checkpoint? at an unspecified location along the way and extra checks of compartments onboard that could hide a human.
Erik Halvorson, USCG spokesman, said the agency has added ?extra security recognising the increased risks?, which include dive sweeps, security teams on board and additional escorts. Most of these costs would be borne by the company, he said.
Yemen LNG"s liquefaction expansion, which recently allowed the nation to start exports to destinations as diverse as China, South Korea, and the US, coincided with the Christmas Day incident on a US-bound commercial aircraft in which a Nigerian who allegedly trained in Yemen was said to have tried to ignite explosives.
The situation in Boston is similar to the days after the September 11 attacks in 2001, when LNG shipments from Trinidad were briefly stopped to assuage public outrage. Long-serving Boston mayor Thomas Menino, who spearheaded the 2001 protests, has led recent criticism of the plans to ship Yemeni LNG. He described the USCG"s decision to allow ship calls as ?putting profits ahead of people?.
The 2001 protests reached the stage of litigation, in which the USCG was challenged on its willingness to allow what was seen as a dangerous cargo to come in proximity with a metropolis. It was feared that so-called ?condo commandos? would rent waterfront apartments in Boston and fire rocket propelled grenades at incoming LNG ships to blow them up.
Industry maintained that LNG as well as LNG ships are safe, and Boston"s own energy needs would be compromised if shipments dried out. In recent years, calls have grown for Distrigas to abandon its shoreside terminal and build an offshore one instead.
The Everett terminal is the oldest LNG facility in the US. As the market leader between 1971 and 2003, it handled half of total US LNG imports. As other facilities came on stream, its share is now down to about 20%.
Distrigas has traditionally imported LNG from Egypt and Trinidad, with Yemen now joining the list. Ms Churchill said the terminal receives approximately one LNG ship a week.
However, the first LNG export from Yemen to the US has already been received. Total, which along with GDF Suez is a long-term buyer of Yemeni LNG, on January 31 received a shipment in Sabine Pass, at the Texas-Louisiana border, from the Maersk Arwa. In keeping with attitudes in that part of the US, this tanker quietly sailed out on February 1.