Puget Sound Energy operates a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility located at the Port of Tacoma that provides local transportation companies, including TOTE Maritime Alaska vessels, with a cleaner fuel alternative. It can also provide residential and commercial customers with natural gas reserves to maintain dependable service on the coldest days of the year.
Air quality benefits
Most cargo ships today run on diesel or bunker fuel. The 2016 emissions inventory showed that, while ship-related emissions have dropped, they still accounted for 34 percent of the maritime-related diesel particulate matter emissions. Our 2008 Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy set ambitious goals for reducing emissions from ships and other port-related sources. The first step for ships was a move to lower-sulfur fuels. TOTE’s switch to LNG will reduce sulphur (SOx) emissions by 100 percent, harmful diesel particulate matter by more than 90 percent, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions by 90 percent and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 35 percent.
TOTE’s use of LNG goes above and beyond stringent air quality standards required by international shipping regulations, which require ships traveling within 200 miles of shore to use low-sulfur fuel. TOTE’s entire trip between Tacoma and Alaska falls within this North American Emissions Control Area.
LNG is not a perfect solution, but it’s a proven step in the right direction. We should continue to explore what we can do locally and globally to protect human health and reduce climate change. We envision a day when our industry can run quickly and efficiently on fossil fuel-free power, but that isn’t possible yet. Until then, LNG offers a cleaner, safer alternative to diesel, which the American Lung Association says can aggravate respiratory and cardiovascular disease, cause chronic bronchitis, asthma, lung inflammation and emphysema, and lead to cancer.
LNG, and natural gas in general, are used regularly in transportation locally and internationally as a cleaner-burning fuel source. The U.S. Department of Energy forecasts demand for LNG to grow.
- Pierce Transit buses have run on compressed natural gas (CNG) for years.
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport uses CNG shuttle vans to move people between the airport terminal and rental car facility.
- City of Seattle waste haulers (Recology CleanScapes, Republic Services) are required to use CNG trucks, and the City of Tacoma has ordered CNG trucks.
- Yellow Cab, Eastside for Hire and other taxi companies run on CNG.
- Mediterranean Shipping Company and Carnival Cruises have ordered LNG-powered cruise ships.
- Norway has adopted LNG extensively as a cleaner maritime fuel.
- Puget Sound Clean Air Agency partnered with Interstate Distributor Co. to replace 10 heavy-duty trucks with LNG-fueled trucks for local hauling.
Water quality benefits
PSE’s LNG facility will have no adverse impact on groundwater or Commencement Bay. In fact, it will reduce the potential for harmful spills and stormwater pollution.
Ships typically are fueled by bunker barge. The barge comes beside the ship and the crew deploys booms in the unlikely event of a spill as they carefully fuel the ship because diesel can pollute our waters. If LNG were to spill during fueling, however, it would turn into a vapor that dissipates if exposed to air. It would have no lasting effect on our waterways or marine life.
Pursuant to permit approvals, PSE also will treat nearly 100 percent of the stormwater on the site before it enters the bay. That wouldn’t happen if the land were to remain vacant. Prior to development, the site did not have a stormwater treatment system.
While the facility will be close to the contaminated former Occidental Chemical site, PSE is not building over the solvent contamination plume, as verified by the state Department of Ecology.
Petroleum pollution is located within the footprint of PSE’s leased area along the north limit of the property boundary. Petroleum storage and distribution facilities (tank farms) operated along the northern portion of the 901 Alexander Ave. property from the 1930s to the 1980s. Historical operations at the former tank farms resulted in an area of contaminated soil and groundwater impacted by benzene, gasoline-range total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) and diesel-range TPH. Investigation results indicate the hydrocarbon groundwater plume has been decreasing in size and concentration over time. The port is working with the Department of Ecology to evaluate alternatives and develop a site cleanup plan.
PSE’s lease has allowed the port to put the property back into productive use while continuing to work with Ecology to determine the final cleanup. PSE’s plant infrastructure is intentionally located to the south of the old tank farm location to minimize the potential of encountering contaminated soil and groundwater.
Soil removed from the site is tested to make sure it meets non-hazardous standards before being taken to a landfill. Between January and June of 2017, 90,000 tons of soil were drilled out during the installation of the concrete columns. Environmental sampling of drill cuttings found no indication of intersection with the Occidental Chemical site plume or the Alexander Avenue Tank Facilities petroleum plume. All 90,000 tons of cuttings were taken to LRI Landfill in Pierce County for disposal.
The ground surface over the petroleum impacted area is currently paved and will remain paved. PSE has been using the area to stage construction equipment.
The facility is required to undergo environmental review and receive permits and approvals from several local, state and federal agencies. More than two dozen permits come from the City of Tacoma. You can find the status of those permits by clicking on the Current Development Permit Statuses header at the top of the City’s project permit page.
Federal standards require the facility to be designed and built to ensure that a spill or fire would have no offsite impacts. Spill and fire scenarios in the environmental review used methodologies and computational models prescribed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and approved on similar facilities. The modeling conclusively demonstrates that exclusion zones defined by federal regulation 49 CFR. § 193.2059 and, by reference NFPA 59A, remain within the site. You may download all of the Safety Modeling Records from the City of Tacoma’s website.
Federal seismic requirements for Puget Sound Energy’s tank design and construction are more rigorous than for bridges and overpasses. Construction of the facility is required to exceed the standard to withstand an earthquake expected every 2,450 years with no loss of LNG, compared to bridges and overpasses that are built to withstand 1,000-year earthquakes.
The facility plans depict that it will sit above 2,013 three-foot-diameter concrete columns poured to a depth of 80 to 100 feet. These columns stabilize the soil during an earthquake. The tank also will be set on 88 foundation isolators to further minimize any shaking of the tank.
PSE has agreed to contribute money to help Tacoma Fire Department reopen a fire station on the Blair-Hylebos Peninsula by the time the LNG facility is operational, as well as refurbish Taylor Way. This fire station will be in addition to those located in Northeast Tacoma and Fife, benefitting the entire community. Without the project, the station would remain closed.
PSE's tank will be sited in an industrially zoned area to support maritime users. Here are examples of other LNG facilities and their distance from residential areas.
In Waterbury, Connecticut, the 14.6-million-gallon Yankee Gas peak shaving facility, built by the same contractors working on PSE’s facility, is located about 500 feet from a residential area. It has been operating since 2008. It is the same height as PSE’s tank, and wider.
Puget Sound Energy’s LNG facility will be used to fuel ships and provide natural gas to residential and commercial customers during peak cold weather demands. It will not be used for exports.
About 6 million of the 8 million gallons will be set aside to provide natural gas to local customers during winter’s peak demand. TOTE’s contract calls for about 900,000 gallons of LNG each week for its two ships.
The facility is too small to produce enough LNG for export. After TOTE’s use is taken into account, it would take six months to fill a small, 90,000-cubic-meter tanker and more than a year and a half to fill a 220,000-cubic-meter Q-Max LNG carrier. A typical LNG carrier load and unload takes about a week.
Here are comparisons to a few LNG export facilities in the U.S.:
- Freeport LNG Liquefaction and Export Project: 13.9 metric tons per annum (mpta) of liquefaction, which is 34 times greater than PSE’s production
- Cheniere’s Sabine Pass Liquefaction Facilities: 31.5 mpta of liquefaction, which is 78 times greater than PSE’s production
- Dominion Energy Cove Point Liquefaction Project: 5.24 mtpa of liquefaction, which is 13 times greater than PSE’s production. Terminal is 1,017 acres, and the fenced area is 131 acres. PSE’s site is 30 acres.
No infrastructure is in place, proposed or permitted to support exporting. Exporting also is not allowed under the property lease.
PSE’s tank will hold 8 million gallons of LNG. Some people have tried to compare it to the capacity of the Tacoma Dome, but the dome would hold about 20 times the capacity of the tank. The Tacoma Dome is 530 feet in diameter and 152 feet tall. PSE’s LNG tank will be about 140 feet in diameter and 150 feet tall at its highest point.
The Puget Sound Energy liquefied natural gas facility site, located at 1001 E. Alexander Ave. in Tacoma is owned by the Port of Tacoma and leased to PSE.
Questions about property ownership claims asserted by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians were settled by the historical Puyallup Land Claims Settlement almost 30 years ago. After five years of negotiations, members of the Puyallup Tribe voted Aug. 27, 1988, to settle historic reservation lands ownership lawsuits against governments and private-property owners.
To resolve the lawsuits, the Tribe accepted a $162 million settlement package of land, cash, and social and employment programs. The compensatory package to the Tribe was made in exchange for the Puyallup Tribe abandoning its claims of ownership to some 18,000 acres of land on Commencement Bay.
The Land Claims Settlement resolved questions over property titles, confirmed the Port of Tacoma's land ownership on the Blair-Hylebos Peninsula, and freed the port to develop its land.
The governmental parties to the Puyallup Land Claims Settlement are the Puyallup Tribe, the State of Washington, Pierce County, the City of Tacoma, the City of Fife, the City of Puyallup and the Port of Tacoma.
The agreement required passage of a bill in the U.S. Congress (the Puyallup Tribe of Indians Settlement Act of 1989), and following President George H.W. Bush's signature in 1989, the agreement was codified at 25 U.S. Code Section 177.
The settlement agreement included the transfer of about 900 acres of land to the Tribe. This included waterfront industrial property on the Blair-Hylebos Peninsula and fronting the Blair Waterway for marine terminal development. Marine View Ventures, the economic development arm of the Puyallup Tribe, chooses and manages projects for tribal land.
The Puyallup Tribe of Indians map also shows various jurisdictional boundaries, including Tribal Reservation, Tribal and Member Trust and fee land boundaries. As indicated in the map, the Tribe does not own the LNG facility site. That land is owned by the Port of Tacoma within the jurisdiction of the City of Tacoma, and it is leased to PSE.