U.S. energy officials recently warned that unrest in the Middle East nation of Yemen poses a threat to the natural gas supply in Boston, according to an article in the Boston Globe.
Despite the reported glut of natural gas supplies in the U.S., the Boston area depends on imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to meet the needs of local customers. Gas is drawn from the ground in Yemen, cooled to -260° degrees Fahrenheit so that it can be compressed, then shipped around the world in a refrigerated ship to the Everett Marine Terminal on the Mystic River near Boston. The PBS program America Revealed explained LNG shipments to Boston in a recent episode.
Dependence on LNG imports creates numerous risks for Boston-area customers, including the supply threats. The Globe reports that Boston might experience natural gas shortages this year because exports from Yemen, a major supplier of natural gas, have been disrupted by attacks by militants.
Recently two tankers full of gas from Yemen that were bound for the Everett terminal - one to arrive this month and another in June - never sailed because of the attacks in Yemen, the Globe reported. Yemen's pipelines have been under attack since antigovernment protests began last year, according to news accounts; in the most recent, an armed group affiliated with Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for bombing a pipeline in retaliation for the killing of an Al Qaeda leader.
The active LNG terminal in Everett creates risk in Boston because an explosion could have devastating effects. An LNG leak could cause a flammable vapor cloud capable of melting steel 1,200 feet away and causing second degree burns on skin one mile away. "This would be bigger than any industrial fire with which we have experience," said James Fay, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "There's no way to put out that kind of fire."
Al-Qaeda reportedly has cited LNG as a desirable target. "If you take out those terminals, you could have a significant disruption [in the U.S. gas supply,]" said Rob Knake, a homeland security specialist.
LNG also has a much larger carbon footprint than domestic natural gas does. A study commissioned by the LNG industry states that greenhouse gas emissions associated with processing and transportation of LNG increase the fuel's life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions by 29.2%, beyond the combustion emissions.
To read the Boston Globe article, click here.
To view the America Revealed segment on LNG imports in the Boston area, click here.