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LNG to be stored at Portsmouth site for at least another 3-4 years

National Grid presents 4 long-term solutions addressing island gas supply shortage

By Jim McGaw
Posted 10/16/20

PORTSMOUTH — No matter what solution National Grid comes up with to meet the long-term demands of its Aquidneck Island gas customers, the controversial, mobile liquified natural gas (LNG) …

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LNG to be stored at Portsmouth site for at least another 3-4 years

National Grid presents 4 long-term solutions addressing island gas supply shortage

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — No matter what solution National Grid comes up with to meet the long-term demands of its Aquidneck Island gas customers, the controversial, mobile liquified natural gas (LNG) facility on Old Mill Lane will continue to operate there on a seasonal basis for at least another three or four years.

That’s according to National Grid representatives who hosted an online forum Wednesday night, Oct. 14, intended to address residents’ safety concerns around the portable facility, as well as present an overview of its Aquidneck Island Long-Term Gas Capacity Study, which outlines long-term solutions going forward.

The nearly two-hour forum was facilitated by Brian Schuster, director of customer community management for National Grid in Rhode Island. Although Mr. Schuster said “well over 50 questions” were either submitted before or during the presentation — many of them about Old Mill Lane — none were made visible on the Zoom application’s “Q&A” chat box. Residents also didn’t have the ability to call in to ask questions live, or appear by video feed.

Later on in the meeting, after several residents had complained about the format, Mr Schuster said he would try to post the questions on National Grid’s website. “We just want to be respectful of everyone’s privacy,” he said.

The R.I. Energy Facility Siting Board, in January, approved National Grid’s request to place five tanker trucks carrying LNG at a temporary vaporization facility on Old Mill Lane for the next several years. The backup supply became necessary after many of the utility’s 13,800 Aquidneck Island natural gas customers experienced outages in 2019.

“National Grid now faces a gap between what our customers … need on the coldest days, compared to what we can provide,” said Stephen Caldwell, director of National Grid’s U.S. retail regulatory strategy.

The backup facility will be operational during the four months of each year when the demand for gas is high — from Dec. 1 to March 31. The company has said it will return the site to its original state in April of each year it is operational. Equipment is arriving in mid-November and the site will be up and running by Dec. 1.

“On the coldest of days, the facility on Old Mill Lane could supply 50 percent of the gas supply on Aquidneck Island on its own,” Mr. Caldwell said.

Safety concerns

Many residents are concerned about safety issues at the Old Mill — near the Middletown line — and say it has no place in a residential neighborhood.

National Grid’s experts did their best to alleviate residents’ fears about the backup facility. Dan Lamriden, National Grid’s director of LNG for the local area, said one misconception about LNG is that it’s “flammable in itself.” It is not, he said, and needs a “precise mix with oxygen” to be flammable.

“It’s one of the cleanest fossil fuels,” Mr. Lamriden said.

He assured residents that National Grid has plenty of experience setting up portable facilities throughout the country, and uses a risk-based analysis using third-party experts, as well as quantitative risk assessments, fire protection studies and more. 

“We worked very closely with the local municipality to help develop the right safety procedures and protocols,” added Mr. Schuster. “In the one-in-a-10-million chance there is an incident at the facility, there are procedures in place to handle those.”

The utility collaborates with local first responders on training, safety protocols and evacuation plans, Mr. Lamriden said, adding that a security officer will be onsite “24/7” upon mobilization of the first LNG equipment. The same goes for National Grid personnel once the first delivery of LNG is made, he said.

Security fencing has been placed around the entire site perimeter, which has 100 percent lighting coverage and barricades to prevent vehicles from making contact with any equipment, he said.

Mr. Schuster acknoqledged “residential impacts” such as noise and lighting that come with the backup facility. The utility, which received a “zoning certificate from Portsmouth back in 2018,” has made significant improvements to the site, such as hooking up electrical service so a noisy generator was no longer needed, he said. Although the lighting cannot be dampened too much because of security reasons, the utility will be planting greenery to lessen the impact, he said.

He addressed another concern from a resident who claimed that National Grid is seeking to have jurisdiction of the state Energy Facility Siting Board vacated, which would allow the utility to bypass the normal, regulatory oversight required by law.

Mr. Schuster denied that is the case, saying National Grid is merely trying to get a clarification on the “procedures when it comes to oversight on temporary, versus permanent, facilities.”

There were also many questions about other LNG operations in residential areas, with residents asking for a list of locations and a map, Mr. Schuster said. He could not answer those question, but vowed to look into them.

Some other questions, specifically those about last year’s outage, could not be addressed because the matter is still under litigation, he said.

Navy land?

Many residents, according to Mr. Schuster, also asked about relocating the facility to Navy land on the west site of the island. While that could be a long-term solution through planning and negotiation, it’s not feasible in the short-term, he said.

While National Grid does have a lease on Navy Base property through 2026, the operating agreement specifically allows only for what is called “peak shaving” — where LNG trucks can make five deliveries per day, eight to 10 times a year. Last year, National Grid asked the Navy to modify the lease to allow for expanded use, but the request was denied.

“What we have at Old Mill Lane is not a forecasted, preplanned operation that I would describe as peak shaving. Saying we can just move everything over to the Navy … we don’t have an operating agreement to do that,” Mr. Schuster said.

National Grid representatives outlined four possible long-term solutions in all, including a transmission pipeline, an LNG barge located a few miles offshore, or continuing with a portable facility at Old Mill Lane. (See related story.)

All of those options, however, will require the use of the Old Mill Lane site for at least another three to four years, according to Mr. Caldwell.

The cost of any solution would be paid by “all National Grid customers on Aquidneck Island,” he said.

Feedback needed

Mr. Schuster said it’s critical that National Grid receive feedback on the Aquidneck Island Long-Term Gas Capacity Study. He urged everyone to visit nationalgridus.com for more information and to provide input.

“Let us know what you think. Let us know what you want for your future energy options,” he said.

National Grid representatives are expected to give the Town Council an update on its plans on Oct. 26.

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