Safe Haven group speak out again on LNG safety worries

Date:

12/01/2009

Author:

Martin Shipton

Source:

Western Mail

Matter:

LNG Milford Haven

A CAMPAIGN group has renewed safety fears about one of the most controversial energy projects ever to involve Wales ahead of the first delivery of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

From this week, ships carrying LNG will dock at Milford Haven, from where the gas will be piped across the country to Gloucestershire, where it will join the National Grid.

The Safe Haven fought a long, and ultimately unsuccessful battle to stop the project, claiming the safety risk was too high - an allegation rejected by all parties involved in the project, the regulators and the courts.

Last night Safe Haven spokesman Gordon Main said: "The risk posed by LNG ships to the residents of towns around the haven moves from theoretical to real with the scheduled arrival of the first LNG ship.

"The fact that both South Hook (the LNG company) and Pembrokeshire County Council have still neglected to look at the consequences of a major LNG release at the jetty or in the waterway means that any emergency plans or safety leaflets are likely to be incomplete and inadequate.

"The delay in passing information to the public until the very last moment and the inadequacy of the safety leaflet prepared by South Hook in no way allay public concern over this matter.

"The risk is not just a physical one to the citizens of Milford Haven - it is also a strategic one for the UK. If an accident were to cut off South Hook, and with it 25% of the UK's gas supply, it would be a crisis for the UK on a par with the current stand-off between The Russian Federation and Ukraine."

Mr Main said in his view the published emergency plans involving the delivery of LNG were insufficient. Referring to written material distributed to residents, he said: "Crucially there is no mention of a major release from an LNG ship.

"This could occur through collision or grounding. The Health and Safety Executive identified it as a major potential hazard and the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators says collision leading to release "should be treated as credible within any port where heavy displacement ships share an operating environment with LNG Tankers" and release from grounding is "entirely possible within the environs of some ports... if grounding is associated with impact on hard point obstructions - eg rock pinnacles and concrete piles".

But a spokesman for Milford Haven Port Authority reassured residents that stringent safety precautions had been put in place.

He said: "We have been working closely with South Hook LNG, Dragon LNG, Pembrokeshire County Council, the Health and Safety Executive, the Maritime and Coastguard Agencies and other bodies for many years to prepare for the arrival of LNG.

"We and others have undertaken a long and detailed programme of public consultation and information from the very beginning to explain to people what we are doing, the reasons for our approach and the conclusions reached.

"Planning for the way in which LNG ships will be managed alongside all the other shipping and users of the port has involved using best practice approaches and technology to identify and test a huge range of scenarios and risks.

"From this, we have put in place a comprehensive series of measures - for example, the number and size of tugs and the number of pilots required, and deepening or widening navigation channels and turning areas, to name just some.

"So Mr Main is right. Major releases or collisions between LNG vessels, the ferry or other tankers could occur, but we are confident that we have minimised the risk of them occurring in the first place - which is the essence of risk assessment.

"On top of that, we also have detailed and rehearsed plans in place so that if an incident, however large or small, does nonetheless occur, we can respond - as was amply demonstrated [at a safety event] on Thursday alongside all the other agencies who would also be involved in any such response."