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Natural Gas Facility Pitched

Energy: Company proposes to build a terminal near Oxnard's Ormond Beach, with an offshore docking station.

April 05, 2002|CARRI KARUHN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A Los Angeles-based energy company is proposing to build a $250-million liquefied natural gas terminal next to an Ormond Beach power plant in Oxnard.

Oxy Energy Services, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corp., is seeking to purchase 261 acres near the Port of Hueneme to build a receiving terminal. A pier or underwater pipeline would connect the terminal with a docking station about 4,000 feet offshore.

The facility would be the first of its kind on the West Coast and, according to the company, help California import more natural gas to fuel its power plants. An Oxy spokeswoman emphasized that the project is in preliminary stages.

But Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez predicted vehement opposition because of safety concerns and the potential for spills or other environmental accidents. He noted that a similar project proposed near Santa Barbara 25 years ago failed when residents there objected over similar fears.

"It would be up to [Oxy Energy] to prove the concerns of the residents--and probably the people of California--wrong," Lopez said.

Jonathan Sharkey, mayor pro tem in neighboring Port Hueneme, agreed. He also expressed concern about increased air pollution from incoming tanker ships.

"There are a lot of people who are very emotionally attached to the Ormond Beach area and have worked many years trying to preserve it," Sharkey said.

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Company Defends Industry's Record

Oxy Energy spokeswoman Jan Sieving said the public is generally misinformed about liquefied natural gas. She said there is no potential for spills because the fuel dissipates when it hits the air, and that the industry has had an excellent safety record internationally for the last 30 years.

Sieving said similar facilities have been constructed and operated safely around the world, including terminals in Massachusetts, Maryland, Georgia and Louisiana.

"Natural gas is environmentally friendly," Sieving said. "That's what all these power plants being built are going to be fueled by. If they can take out some of the oil-fueled plants, then it's better for the environment."

Sieving noted that 37% of California's electricity is generated by power plants fueled by natural gas, and that the 11 plants under construction across the state will also be fueled by natural gas.

California imports about 84% of its natural gas supply from other Western states and Canada, according to Occidental.

Sieving said the Oxnard facility would employ about 30 workers, generate at least $2 million in annual tax revenue and allow California to import natural gas from several countries along the Pacific Rim, creating competition and helping to keep energy costs down.

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Ships Would Deliver Offshore

The project calls for an onshore receiving terminal that would be built on about 95 acres next to Reliant Energy's Ormond Beach plant. Oxy does not have a contract with Reliant. Sieving said the company does not plan to develop the remaining 166 acres. The entire site is owned by Southern California Edison.

In addition, a docking station would be built offshore. A pipeline--constructed either underwater or along a pier--would connect it to the terminal. The liquid natural gas would be pumped from the tanker ships at the docking station and piped to the receiving station, where it would be converted back to its gaseous state.

There would be about one ship delivery per week, with the ship docking offshore for about 14 hours, Sieving said.

The project would need to be approved by various governing agencies, including the city of Oxnard, the California Coastal Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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