Serving Franklin County, WA

LNG can replace more Russian gas

There is an old saying: Don’t let the “perfect” be the “enemy” of the good!

That is important to remember as we work our way out of the energy crisis exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While the Russians are razing the country and killing thousands of innocent people, many world leaders are slapping Moscow with heavy economic sanctions. Embargoing Russian oil and natural gas are examples.

With the prohibition of Russian oil imports, there is a crude shortage in our country. Consequently, our drivers are shocked by the recent price spikes at the gas pump. Part of the remedy is to increase domestic crude production and to supplemental refineries with additional Canadian crude---something the Keystone XL pipeline would accomplish.

While some may see Russia’s invasion as a “perfect” time to wean our country totally from fossil fuels, we have to focus on the reality of the situation and on the “good” carbon energy products provide.

We need to recognize the major environmental improvements we have accomplished and find ways to continue to solve problems. That is good for all Americans; however, it is far from perfect.

Consider liquefied natural gas (LNG).

LNG processing reduces “greenhouses gases” and eliminates other air contaminants. During conversion from natural gas to LNG, CO2 and other pollutants are removed. LNG is simply the same natural gas we use in our homes and businesses, only purified and refrigerated to minus-260 degrees Fahrenheit, where it turns into a liquid.

LNG is not explosive or even flammable in its liquid state even though LNG takes up one-600th the volume of natural gas in the gaseous state. Storage tanks holding the LNG are not pressurized.

When warmed, it’s the same fuel we all use in our stoves and furnaces, and requires the same safety precautions.

The United States became the LNG largest exporter in December 2021 and European deliveries surged to help alleviate the energy crisis resulting Vladimir Putin’s ordered invasion.

The Ukraine crisis has underscored Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, which supplies about 40 percent of the natural gas used to heat its homes and generate electricity.

Russia built Nord Stream 2 to bypass Ukraine’s pipeline network. It is an $11 billion project that stretches 745 miles to Germany’s Baltic coast. It could make Europe even more Russian energy reliant. However, it can’t start deliveries until Germany’s regulators permit it. Meanwhile, America has stepped in sending a flotilla of LNG ships to Europe.

“White House efforts to boost U.S. liquefied natural gas exports and cut Europe’s reliance on Russian gas after the invasion of Ukraine are proceeding slowly, because of concerns about the impact on climate change,” government and industry sources told Reuters.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE), Washington’s largest supplier of electricity and natural gas, is experiencing the regulatory slowness. In 2014, PSE inked an agreement with TOTE to furnish LNG for its ships. However, activists are attempting to block construction of PSE’s $300 million LNG plant on Tacoma’s Tide Flats.

According to PSE, by switching from diesel to LNG, maritime vessels at the Port will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions into Tacoma’s air by more than 30 percent and dangerous particulate (smoke) emissions by more than 90 percent.

That is important because EPA calculated there are 23 million people nationwide with port-related jobs. Seaports account for 26 percent of the United States economy. There are an additional 39 million Americans who live in proximity to ports.

As with everything we do or build there are associated risks, but total risk avoidance is impossible. We just have to make sure the “good” gets better and the “perfect” doesn’t become the enemy.

– Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at [email protected].


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