ROBBINSTON, Maine — Downeast LNG Inc. has signed a letter of agreement with one of the largest engineering and construction firms in the global energy industry to build its proposed liquefied natural gas import-export terminal at Mill Cove in Robbinston.
Downeast LNG and CB&I will “work collaboratively to secure the phased development, design and construction” of the project, according to a news release issued this week by Dean Girdis, president and CEO of Downeast LNG.
Girdis said CB&I, which has administrative headquarters in Woodlands, Texas, is a leader in constructing LNG plants around the world.
“They probably have one of the best reputations in the field,” he said.
Representatives of CB&I visited Maine and were “impressed” with the site, Girdis said.
“We all concluded it’s a very good site for constructing an LNG terminal, and we look forward to working with them,” Girdis said.
The project remains in the permitting phase and Girdis estimates another 30 state and federal permits are needed. He indicated construction could nevertheless begin as early as the spring of 2017.
After going through a decade of reviews, filings, reports and hearings for an import-only plant, Downeast LNG announced last summer it would seek federal approval to build a $2 billion facility that could import and export liquefied natural gas.
“In May 2014, Downeast completed the environmental review of its originally proposed LNG facility with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, receiving its final environmental impact statement,” the news release said. “Downeast entered pre-filing for its proposed export project in July 2014 and received its free trade export authorization from the Department of Energy in early 2015.”
Girdis said the proposed bi-directional facility would require modifications to the original site plan but that much would remain the same. The reconfigured Downeast LNG project “will retain one LNG storage tank, pier, regasification equipment and natural gas pipeline as currently proposed, adding liquefaction capacity to the current design.”
Financing for the proposed project, which would involve connecting with the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline, would be decided after the permitting phase, when Downeast LNG takes the project to market, Girdis said. Several banks and equity investors have been contacted on a preliminary basis and are “very excited” about the project, he said.
Girdis told the BDN in March it makes sense to construct an export-capable facility in Robbinston, because much more natural gas is being produced in North America now than in the early 2000s. He said increases in production in the Marcellus Shale geologic region around northern and western Pennsylvania and West Virginia means the Downeast LNG terminal would be “well-positioned” to export natural gas overseas.
A longtime opponent of the project said it doesn’t matter who partners with Downeast LNG, the facility won’t get built.
“Downeast LNG has hired a wide range of companies through the years in attempts to make the project seem like it fits in an inappropriate location, even though the project will never be built. CB&I is just another company in a long and growing list,” Robert Godfrey, a spokesman and researcher with Save Passamaquoddy Bay, said. “The only significance to CB&I’s involvement is in Downeast LNG’s continued willingness to waste money on its unrealistic project.”
He said Canadian government policy prohibits LNG tankers traveling into and out of Passamaquoddy Bay and that the U.S. Coast Guard requires Downeast LNG to obtain Canada’s cooperation for safe and secure LNG transits in the waterway. That will not be happening, Godfrey said.
“What shipping company would attempt to send a vessel through a country’s waters that prohibits such transits?” he asked. “What insurance company would insure the ship and cargo?”
Girdis said his company has been “working on that issue [Canada] for some time. We don’t need any permits from Canada.”
He added his firm would work with Canadian officials to address their concerns.