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Company forms natural gas plan

Concerns are voiced over a proposed floating LNG terminal just 28 miles from Tampa Bay.

By ASJYLYN LODER AND CRAIG PITTMAN
Published June 27, 2007


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TAMPA - Even as Congress again debated whether to allow drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, a Norwegian company was touting its plans to anchor a natural gas terminal just 28 miles from Tampa Bay.

The floating terminal calls for special tankers to convert liquefied natural gas, then pump it to the mainland via a pipeline to Port Manatee.

Hoegh LNG AS faces a yearlong licensing process with the U.S. Maritime Administration. Port Manatee hasn't even had time to schedule the issue for a Port Authority meeting. Tampa Electric Co., a possible customer, described their interest as "very preliminary."

Sveinung H. Stohle, president and CEO of Hoegh, said Tuesday that Florida's demand for natural gas grows 2 to 3 percent a year, while North American supplies dwindle. The terminal, plus the three or four specialized vessels that would supply it, represent a $1-billion investment. His firm is forming a partnership to deliver LNG to a similar offshore terminal near Boston.

Concerns about powerful LNG explosions have pushed LNG suppliers to look at offshore delivery terminals. Federal law has allowed offshore LNG delivery since 2002. Since then, 16 LNG providers have applied for licenses, seven have been approved, but only one, off of Louisiana, is supplying LNG.

Mark Ferrulo of Environment Florida voiced concerns Tuesday for marine life, fishing, tourism and safety.

Stohle said the technology has been in use in Norway and the United Kingdom for 15 years. "It has been proven and it works, " he said.

Environmental and safety concerns will be addressed through public meetings, said Keith Lesnick, director of deepwater port licensing for the Maritime Administration. The first hearing could be as soon as the end of July.

The terminal could supply TECO and Gulfstream Natural Gas, which is building a spur from its pipeline to supply natural gas to Progress Energy's Bartow power plant in St. Petersburg, but neither company has agreed to buy gas from Hoegh LNG yet.

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at (813) 225-3117 or aloder@sptimes.com. Craig Pittman can be reached at craig@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8530.

[Last modified June 26, 2007, 23:06:52]


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