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Washington Post: The Natural Gas Revolution Reversing LNG Tanker Trade

Author: Steven Mufson
December 7, 2012

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The international trade in natural gas--and the rest of the energy business--has been turned upside down. It's as startling as it would be if rivers decided to run upstream.

A vast dock stands a mile offshore here, its concrete legs planted in the water and its steel tentacles poised to suck natural gas in a liquid state from special refrigerated tankers up to a thousand feet long.

But on a recent clear fall afternoon, there wasn't a tanker in sight. Inside a control room, operator Ron Keraga watched computer monitors that did not blink. The only flurry came from the sea gulls, which perched on the railings outside and then left a white trail behind them.

"Like any job, there's going to be some downtime," Keraga said.

In this case, a lot of downtime. Dominion Resources' Cove Point terminal, originally designed in the 1970s, can import liquefied natural gas — or LNG — from up to 220 tankers a year. But this year only one tanker has unloaded here, back in May.

That's because the international trade in natural gas — and the rest of the energy business — has been turned upside down. It's as startling as it would be if rivers decided to run upstream.

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