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Tacoma Moves Ahead On Plans For A Liquefied Natural Gas Plant At The Port

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Puget Sound Energy
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An artist's rendering of what the plant might look like

Plans for a liquefied natural gas facility at the Port of Tacoma are one step closer to reality, after the Tacoma City Council passed a resolution to move ahead on an agreement with the port about the project.

Puget Sound Energy says it needs a place to store natural gas and the way to do that is to chill it to a liquid form. So the company wants to spend $275 million to build the plant which would convert the gas to a liquid and then keep it on port property in a 140-foot-tall storage tank.

“It’s going to primarily serve as a back-up to our natural gas distribution system. So on that coldest day in January, when we all need more gas to heat our homes and businesses … we can return some of that liquefied natural gas to our distribution system,” said Grant Ringel, a PSE spokesman.

Fire Concerns

For people who live nearby, the potential for fire has been one of the main concerns, according to John Thurlow, co-chair of the Northeast Tacoma Neighborhood Council.

“I think the real issue is, can a fire there be contained properly and effectively?” Thurlow said.

Thurlow says he is reassured that the city will be able to handle a possible fire at the plant because Tacoma will re-open a former fire station close by.

Puget Sound Energy is going to help pay to refurbish that fire station. The company says the liquefied natural gas plant itself will be built with numerous safety precautions. And Ringel emphasized that natural gas is not flammable when it is in a liquid form.

Cleaner Air?

The city of Tacoma says the facility will create jobs and help reduce emissions. That is because some of the gas will be sold as marine fuel for ships at the port, replacing fuels such as diesel which pollute more.

For that reason, the project earned some praise from the Sightline Institute, a non-profit think tank that works on sustainability issues.

“One of the positive elements about it is that it will probably result in an improvement in air quality because it will help transition marine vessels from burning a really nasty, heavy diesel fuel to a much cleaner fuel source with LNG,” said Eric de Place, policy director at Sightline Institute.

“That being said, as a general matter, we are not in favor of continuing to build out large-scale, capital-intensive fossil fuel facilities. That’s probably the wrong direction for the region to go,” de Place added. “In this particular case, it’s one of those narrow exceptions where it may very well be a good thing.”

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