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Opening the spigot for liquid natural gas imports

August 29, 2008|Nancy Rivera Brooks

With the help of Mexico President Felipe Calderon, San Diego-based Sempra Energy on Thursday inaugurated its $1-billion Energia Costa Azul gas import terminal to serve fast-growing energy demands in the southwestern U.S. and Baja California.

The first such facility on North America's west coast, the Sempra plant receives natural gas that was cooled to a liquid for overseas shipment by tanker. The fuel is then processed back into a gas for pipeline transport to users, including power plants, industry and homes.

Several other companies are pursuing permits for West Coast liquefied natural gas facilities to tap into growing use of the relatively clean-burning fuel, but they have run into opposition in Long Beach and other communities. Some critics worry about the safety of such regasification facilities; others doubt the market can support multiple plants.

Sempra, parent of Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co., said Thursday that the terminal, on the shore 14 miles north of Ensenada, would receive a 5-million-cubic-foot shipment of liquefied natural gas next month from Trinidad and Tobago. Energia Costa Azul, which is capable of processing as much as 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, received its first cargo in April.

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