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Liquefied Natural Gas Risks Assessed

Heavy damage from tanker breach could affect wide area, analysis finds

by Jeff Johnson
January 3, 2005 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 83, Issue 1


Serious injury and heavy property damage from fires and explosions caused by a large breach in a liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargo tank could affect areas more than one-quarter mile from the tanker ship, says a recent analysis by Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M.

Lesser injuries and damage could occur more than a mile from the release site, according to the report.

There are currently four U.S. marine LNG terminals, Sandia says, but more than 40 new terminals are being considered because of high U.S. natural gas use and domestic shortages, major concerns of the chemical industry. U.S. natural gas imports are expected to more than double over the next 20 years, and nearly all new gas imports will be LNG--a 28-fold increase, according to the Department of Energy. Terminals are proposed for major population centers on all three U.S. coasts.

The report models overall risk and provides approaches to limit risk of an LNG accident or intentional breaching. Risk from an accident is small and manageable with current safety practices, the report says. An intentional event--such as a terrorist attack--would cause a larger breach and do more damage, but that risk can be reduced with security planning and mitigation, according to the report.

In the past 40 years, more than 80,000 LNG carrier shipments have occurred worldwide without major accidents, the report says. Eight marine incidents have resulted in spills but no fires.


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