What others say: Successful LNG deliveries provide options

  • Sunday, October 9, 2016 9:49pm
  • Opinion

It’s been a week of good news for hauling liquefied natural gas. On Tuesday, news broke that an expanded-capacity trailer rig successfully made the transit between Cook Inlet and Fairbanks, and on Wednesday, the first-ever transport of LNG containers by rail was completed by the Alaska Railroad Corp. The pair of developments are a strong positive for efforts to bring more natural gas to the Interior and to bring down costs for that gas to consumers.

For as long as local gas utility Fairbanks Natural Gas has been in operation, the delivery vector for natural gas to Fairbanks has been trucks. The trucks, whose gas containers carry 10,000 gallons of LNG, made regular transits from Port MacKenzie to the Interior, depositing the super cooled gas in local storage tanks and returning for another load. The tanks that made their first delivery this week, by comparison, have a 13,000-gallon capacity, a 30 percent increase per truck. That means more gas delivered per trip — three deliveries by the higher-capacity trucks will be roughly equivalent to four of the traditional model. The increase in capacity should reduce transportation costs while also making it easier to bring in more gas if and when it becomes available — without as much of a traffic increase on the Parks Highway.

The rail option also demonstrated its potential this week, as a pair of modular LNG containers made the first-ever trip for natural gas on a U.S. railway. The containers tip the scales at 7,000 gallons apiece, roughly half the size of the expanded-capacity truck tanks. But given the nature of trains, it’s relatively easy to add cars and transport as much gas as is needed if the economics of the transport method pencil out. And that’s good news not only for the Interior but also potentially for Interior communities on and off the road system — the modular containers shipped via rail this week are transportable via truck and barge, so they could one day be a fuel option for distant communities, provided transportation costs don’t make the gas more expensive than existing options (usually diesel fuel).

If rail transport proves cost effective, it could be a big step toward achieving the desired $15 per thousand cubic feet price point (the equivalent of $2 per gallon heating fuel) of the Interior Energy Project. Even if it doesn’t, the higher-capacity truck containers could bring down transport costs while increasing the quantity delivered per truck. While there’s still plenty of distance between where the Interior is today and a fully realized Interior Energy Project, positive news about the transport side of the gas equation is always welcome.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

Sept. 30

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