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Ascendant chief pushes LNG option

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Bermuda could have imported liquefied natural gas as an alternative to costly oil in as little as three to five years if all falls into place.

This from Ascendant Group president and CEO Walt Higgins, who says residents could see a savings of at least 15 percent on their electricity bills.

“We are making terrific progress in the process of helping to bring the Island to a decision on the importation of natural gas,” said Mr Higgins, a US energy industry veteran.

“The current wisdom now in Bermuda is we ought to be moving towards liquefied natural gas as our principal source of fuel for electricity generation in Bermuda.”

But he stressed it will take a substantial investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in building infrastructure, facilities and even at least two dedicated LNG tankers to bring the liquefied natural gas to the Island from the US.

Mr Higgins sees this being done in partnership with an experienced international company in the LNG industry. And he said hopefully Belco will be refitting and replacing power plant engines one day to burn imported natural gas and not imported oil.

Mr Higgins said following a Government agreement of concept and process there are a number of steps that need to be taken including: A detailed feasibility study covering the financial, environmental, engineering, procurement and logistic aspects of the project; and a long-term natural gas purchase agreement including pipeline transport of the natural gas to a liquefaction and export facility, where the gas would be liquefied and loaded onto specially built ships.

A liquefied natural gas terminal would need to be built in Bermuda and a pipeline from the terminal to Belco.

Much of this work would take place simultaneously, Mr Higgins said.

It is expected the initial feasibility study would take approximately 12 months, after which pending approvals development of the terminal would take upwards of 24 months, Mr Higgins said.

He cautioned that making deals to import natural gas will be a challenging process, requiring the securing of pipelines and a facility in the US that can liquefy the gas before shipping, which will not be easy because of record demand right now for America’s supply of cheap, clean and abundant natural shale gas.

“Everybody in the world wants to tap into the low prices of US shale gas supplies,” he said.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted in a report this week that rising shale oil production will help meet most of the world's new oil demand in the next five years. The agency said that North America “set off a supply shock that is sending ripples throughout the world”.

"The good news is that this is helping to ease a market that was relatively tight for several years," the agency said in the report.

Oil traded near $103 a barrel this week, well below its peak of $147 back in 2008.

Another benefit of natural gas is it emits about 50 percent less carbon dioxide than oil and coal.

Global companies like Teekay Corp, which is in fact Bermuda-based, provide LNG transport for energy companies and utilities and have predicted by 2020 another 100 ships will be needed.

Bermuda's energy future: An LNG tanker pictured at sea. Is importing natural gas a solution to high energy costs?
'Making terrific progress' on LNG: Ascendant Group president and CEO Walt Higgins

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Published May 16, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 15, 2013 at 7:18 pm)

Ascendant chief pushes LNG option

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