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LNG too risky for Howe Sound

I am a retired Naval Commander and Master Home Trade. My summertime home since 1931 has been the Pasley Island group in west Howe Sound.

I am a retired Naval Commander and Master Home Trade. My summertime home since 1931 has been the Pasley Island group in west Howe Sound. Having witnessed its near-death by pollution from Britannia, Woodfibre and Port Mellon long ago, and my Mickey Island being the focus of a significant bunker oil spill in 1964, I now rejoice in the sound’s survival, the gradual return of marine life, and its blossoming popularity as a tourist destination.

Having read Captain Stephen Brown’s 4 Aug. Globe & Mail article, ‘LNG Shipping has an Enviable Safety Record’, I take issue with his over-eager, unquestioning support for the Woodfibre LNG project. Keen to convince his readers, Capt. Brown wishes to share facts with them, but cherry picks the facts to make his point. 

For example, his only reference to the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO) involves their calculation that 80,000 LNG cargoes have been safely delivered; however, he omits the fact that Howe Sound meets NOT ONE of the half dozen SIGTTO criteria for the safe location of an LNG terminal. SIGTTO being the de facto world authority on safe LNG terminal siting, and regardless of whether Woodfibre holds SIGTTO membership, I see that omission as a failure to speak straight – a perversion of the truth.

Dr. Michael Hightower of Sandia Laboratories was tasked by the US Dept. of Energy to assess the risks associated with LNG tankers. His research identified the need for three Safety Exclusion Zones which, under US law, now apply to all new LNG shore facilities and from there all the way to the open sea. Centered on the moving tanker and with radius in metres as shown, these zones are:

500m - Danger area for a pool fire,

1600m - Distance an LNG vapour cloud from an accidental spill could spread and be ignited elsewhere,

3500m - Distance vapour cloud from a catastrophic containment failure (terrorist attack?) could spread before ignition. Note: danger of death by asphyxiation, fire or explosion exists throughout this zone, which some LNG hazard experts say should extend to 4800m

Captain Brown makes no mention of the Sandia Safety Exclusion Zones. Thus his statement, “In the unlikely event of a loss of containment LNG would return to gaseous state and dissipate with no impact on water or land,” is a very serious distortion of what really could happen, as determined by the best scientific minds in the field. Moreover the record shows that 128 were killed in the Cleveland explosion and fire of 1944; 37 in La Spezia in 1971; 27 (and 74 injured) in Skikda, Algeria in 2004; and 23 in Ghislenghiem, Belgium, also in 2004…

Howe Sound is a narrow, challenging waterway. The 1600m and 3500m safety exclusion zones run far inland along much of the route, overlapping and endangering the lives of the several thousands of people who live and work and play there. LNG is far too risky for Howe Sound. Woodfibre LNG must be rejected.

 Roger Sweeny

 Cdr. RCN ret.

 West Vancouver BC