Liquefied Natural Gas Boom Sparks Safety Worries
The surging popularity of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has local communities where LNG terminals are planned worried about safety. Ships carrying five LNG tanks contain as much energy as a nuclear weapon. If even one of the tanks spilled and the gas ignited, it could cause a fire up to half a mile wide, and the resulting thermal radiation could burn people up to half a mile beyond the fire, say some researchers. Currently there are only four LNG terminals in the U.S., but more than 30 are under consideration, many in densely populated areas. The Bush administration, which is backing expanded use of LNG, points to the fuel’s clean safety record — there have been no dangerous incidents involving LNG in the U.S., though a January explosion at an LNG terminal in Algeria killed 22. In response to local attempts to block construction of new terminals, the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are attempting to assert sole authority over approvals for new LNG facilities.