Bigger storage tanks proposed for Acushnet site
By JOYCE ROWLEY/ecoRI News contributor
ACUSHNET, Mass. — As part of the $3 billion natural gas-pipeline project Access Northeast, Eversource Energy — formerly NSTAR — is laying the groundwork for two new 170-foot-high liquified natural gas (LNG) storage tanks on Peckham Road. These twin double-hulled tanks, 270 feet wide at the base, would hold up to 6.8 billion cubic feet (bcf), doubling the power company's current total capacity throughout its tri-state service area from 4.7 to 11.5 bcf.
Eversource spokesman Michael Durand noted the company’s Yankee Gas LNG tank in Waterbury, Conn., as being somewhat similar. That tank is 117 feet high, with a 146-foot-wide base, and holds only 1.2 bcf of gas, roughly 14.6 million gallons, according to Connecticut state officials. In comparison, the Acushnet facility’s combined tank capacity of 6.8 bcf would equal nearly 100 million gallons of liquified natural gas.
Since 1971, the site has held two smaller LNG storage tanks, 106 feet and 117 feet high, storing 0.5 bcf to serve the NSTAR customers from Greater New Bedford to Cape Cod.
Those tanks would remain onsite. The new larger tanks would serve 28 natural gas-fired power plants from Connecticut to Maine to meet winter demand.
Access Northeast was developed in response to a fuel crunch during the winter of 2013-14, when the power grid manager, ISO New England, was forced to use coal-fired and oil-fired power plants as a backup to meet unusually high demand.
The retooled Acushnet facility would take in natural gas from the nearby Algonquin gas transmission pipeline, liquefy it and store the LNG during warm weather. Then, during the winter, the plant would help supply demand by vaporizing the LNG and returning it to National Grid and Eversource power plants throughout New England.
Durand couldn't say whether the plant would be used year-round.
When completed, Access Northeast would provide an estimated 5,000 megawatts of energy. Eversource estimates 2,100 construction jobs will be created during the upgrade of the Algonquin gas transmission pipeline and system.
Proximity to the Marcellus and Utica shales in Pennsylvania and New York is being touted by Access Northeast as a possible new supply source. Natural gas from those geologic formations is extracted through hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of rock.
Within a quarter-mile of the proposed location of the two new LNG storage tanks, is the city of New Bedford’s densely populated North End residential district. Within 2 miles of the site, there are three schools — Casimir Pulaski Elementary in New Bedford, and Acushnet Elementary and Ford Middle School.
According to the Acushnet zoning map, the current LNG storage facility is in a residential zone. The surrounding area is zoned and used as single-family residential housing.
Eversource’s Jim Hunt met with Acushnet Board of Selectmen on July 27 to discuss the project. The town could see tax revenues of up to $10 million to $12.5 million annually from the project, according to Access Northeast documents.
Selectmen are planning to tour Eversource’s Waterbury, Conn., LNG facility Aug. 13.
Discussions with New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell also were preliminary. The mayor's spokeswoman, Elizabeth Treadup-Pio, said Mirtchell wouldn’t offer support for the project until more information became available.
“We’re committed to openness and transparency, which is why we reached out to local officials so early in the process to let them know about our plans,” Durand said.
The Eversource spokesman didn’t have the specifics of the pipeline route, size or pressure. He also couldn’t say whether a compressor would be needed.
The Center for Liquified Natural Gas describes the liquefaction process as requiring the use of large centrifugal compressors typically found in LNG import terminals and “similar to what is found in refineries, power plants and large chemical plants."
While LNG isn’t explosive, it is highly flammable. LNG vapors are heavier than air, can travel long distances and will flashback to an ignition source. Although incidents are few, a 2004 explosion at an Algerian LNG facility killed 27 people and injured 70 more. According to a New York Times story, energy regulators pointed to the plant’s liquefaction process as playing a role in the explosion.
Typically, liquefaction is performed prior to export, and LNG is carried on refrigerated tankers to an import terminal. It’s then carried by refrigerated tank trucks or vaporized and transmitted through pipelines.
Access Northeast, the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) and Atlantic Bridge projects intertwine with Houston-based Spectra Energy, a Fortune 500 company that owns the 1,189-mile Algonquin gas transmission pipeline and the 8,898-mile Texas Eastern pipeline that carries natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico. Spectra, which faces opposition for its other natural-gas expansion plans in the Northeast, is taking the lead on permitting for Access Northeast.
During the environmental review for the Algonquin Incremental Market project, Fight Against Natural Gas (FANG) and a coalition of environmental groups claimed the Access Northeast project, the Atlantic Bridge linking the Algonquin transmission lines with the Canadian Maritimes-Northeast lines and the AIM project are all one and the same.
The Access Northeast map shows natural-gas projects in Burrillville, Tiverton and Little Compton, R.I., and in West Roxbury. Although the Burrillville high-capacity compressor project is moving forward despite local protests, the AIM pipeline through Tiverton and Little Compton was withdrawn after it met staunch opposition.
Four U.S. senators, two U.S. representatives, the city of Boston, state legislators, four municipalities and a coalition of 19 environmental groups have requested a rehearing of the West Roxbury application on the basis of environmental, safety and health considerations.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the rehearing on May 1 but hasn’t yet scheduled a date. In the interim, Spectra has received FERC approval to build several components of the project, including a new Assonet/North Fall River facility at 172 Main St. and a new station in New Bedford on Shawmut Avenue.
On June 23, Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-South Boston, filed a motion for an emergency stay against construction of the West Roxbury project, citing close proximity to a highly populated center. The high pressure 16- to 24-inch pipeline will traverse under a soccer field and run adjacent to the West Roxbury Quarry.
According to a July 30 report to FERC, Spectra began construction and is laying pipe on the West Roxbury section of the project.