"For much of the state of Maine, the environment is the economy"
2006 November 26
Save Passamaquoddy Bay 3-Nation Alliance (SPB) -- comprised of Americans, Passamaquoddys, and Canadians around international Passamaquoddy Bay -- condemns FERC for its misleading information about Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) safety. FERC states that LNG vapor will combust only within a narrow gas-to-air mixture. In truth, gasoline and propane have significantly narrower ranges of flammability than does LNG vapor.
SPB webmaster and researcher Robert Godfrey says, "FERC's publishing of LNG combustibility information in isolation gives the impression that the range is narrow, improbable, and safe. The vapor-to-air mixture required for gasoline combustion is significantly narrower than is required for LNG vapor, and the public is generally aware that gasoline vapors are unsafe. Also," continued Godfrey, "when LNG evaporates, it grows in volume by 600 times. Gasoline expands only about 20 times. Thus, the same volume of LNG creates a vapor cloud that is 30 times larger than gasoline. The public's lack of familiarity with LNG and its properties, as well as the public's lack of familiarity with other hydrocarbon flammability details, results in FERC giving the public a false impression regarding LNG safety," Godfrey said.
"Also, FERC minimizes the cryogenic (freezing), asphyxiation, and combustion hazards of LNG vapors," Godfrey continued. "FERC states that LNG vapors begin to rise whey they warm above -160°F. What FERC avoids stating is that LNG vapors don't begin to rise until they warm by 100°F above the -260°F temperature of LNG's liquified state. In other words, LNG vapors cling to the earth's surface, are carried near its surface by any existing wind, and can be blown for miles, presenting multiple serious hazards -- cryogenic, asphyxiation, fire, and explosion -- until they heat up by 100°F or are diluted sufficiently by the atmosphere."
FERC's misbehavior in these matters, as well as FERC's policy of ignoring LNG developers' lack of veracity, implicitly encourages LNG developers to mimic FERC in misrepresenting the truth to the public.
Save Passamaquoddy Bay insists that FERC discontinue providing isolated statements regarding LNG vapors that the general public are likely to misinterpret. Save Passamaquoddy Bay further requests that Congress require FERC, when providing combustibility of LNG vapor information, to include LNG air-to-vapor combustion requirements and combustibility range along with the air-to-vapor requirements and combustibility range for gasoline and propane.
Although FERC is an agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), when FERC misbehaves, the only apparent recourse is the courts and Congressional legislation. And, although it is FERC's responsibility to be honest and truthful with the public, and to present information in ways that are not deceptive or misleading, FERC has not been abiding by that responsibility. Godfrey said, "The result has been damage to the credibility of FERC, the FERC permitting process, the DOE, American energy infrastructure, and the US Government. It has generated mistrust among the public, and rightly so."
Save Passamaquoddy Bay suggests that it is time for Congress to hold hearings regarding FERC's violation of the public trust, and to put into place a FERC Commission that includes proactive interests of public safety. "The American public has the right to demand that FERC be held accountable for its misbehavior, and to insist that Congress set right an agency that has gone wrong," Godfrey concluded.
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Is LNG explosive?
In its liquid state, LNG is not explosive. When LNG is heated and becomes a gas, the gas is not explosive if it is unconfined. Natural gas is only flammable within a narrow range of concentrations in the air (5% to 15%). Less air does not contain enough oxygen to sustain a flame, while more air dilutes the gas too much for it to ignite.
FERC Pamphlet, "A Guide to LNG: What All Citizens Should Know", page 5:
(FERC website references the pamphlet at: http://www.ferc.gov/for-citizens/lng.asp and elsewhere.)
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What happens when LNG is warmed?
As a vapor, natural gas mixed with air is flammable in the concentrations noted previously. As LNG vapor warms above -160°F (-106.7°C), it becomes lighter than air and will rise and disperse rather than collect near the ground. However, it is not explosive unless flammable concentrations of gas occur in enclosed or otherwise confined spaces.
FERC information on LNG vapor rising
"Is LNG Explosive?"
The combustion range for LNG vapor is 5% to 15% (a 10% range).
The combustion range for gasoline is 1.4% to 7.6% (a 6.2% range).
The combustion range for propane is 2.2% to 9.5% (a 7.3% range).