LNG: Trucks Fill Looming Gas Gaps

While We Await Authorization to Transport LNG by Rail in Standard Cars, Northeast Utilities are Scrambling Trucks to Prevent Expected Winter Gas Shortages. Public Comment Period on Proposed LNG-by-Rail Ruling Closes 23 December.

15 November

“We’re flaring 0.5 Bcf/d of gas in the Permian, and yet New Yorkers can’t get enough gas to heat their homes.”

{Leticia Gonzales, LNG Insight 14-16.Oct.2019}

In April of this year, President Trump issued his Executive Order on Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth , which directed the Secretary of Transportation to propose a ruling to allow for the authorized transportation of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) by rail in standardized DOT-113 tank cars.

In September, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced house bill H.R. 4306, requiring a comprehensive review into the transport LNG by rail tank cars.

On 18 October (published in the Federal Register 24 October), USDOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) to permit the transportation of LNG by rail according to 49 CFR parts 171-180, with the following major notations:

Packaging requirements

  • Authorized transport of LNG by rail in DOT-113C120W tank cars.
  • The Pressure Control Valve Setting or Relief Valve Setting Table to be amended by adding a column for methane.

Operational controls

NPRM does not call for new operational controls for transport of LNG by rail tank car. AAR Circular OT-55 would apply to the bulk transport of LNG by rail in a train composed of 20 car loads.



The NPRM asks the public to comment generally on LNG by rail, and specifically on the following issues:

  • Whether LNG by rail has the potential to reduce regulatory burdens, enhance domestic energy production, and impact safety.
  • Whether the length of trains transporting LNG tank cars should be limited, and if so, what length would be appropriate.
  • Whether the configuration of trains transporting LNG tank cars should be regulated, such as by limiting the number of LNG tank cars in a train consist, or by restricting where LNG tank cars may be placed within the train.
  • Whether PHMSA should consider any additional operational controls and whether such controls are justified by data on the safety or economic impacts.

Submit comments identified by the Docket Number PHMSA-2018-0025 (HM-264) via either of the following methods:

    1. Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
    2. Fax: 1-202-493-2251.
    3. Mail: Docket Management System; U.S. DOT, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Routing Symbol M-30, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590.


Deep opposition

Legislative and political actions, and public resistance have severely restricted development of additional gas capacity on the northeast. New York is required by statute to generate 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and obtain 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2040. In the current timeframe, the state has denied permits for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE), the Constitution Pipeline, and the Northern Access expansion.

In January, thousands of Rhode Island’s Aquidneck Island residents had their gas shut down for a week due to a combination of failures in the system. While the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers report (issued 30.Oct.2019) found that the incident was avoidable, it points to pervasive weaknesses in the region’s gas distribution network.

Ad hoc solutions = more LNG on the roads :

Rhode Island has granted National Grid’s a temporary waiver from the licensing requirement of the Energy Facility Siting Act to operate a temporary LNG vaporization facility on a site in Portsmouth RI.

Prior to 2018, National Grid had used a site within the Newport naval base when a temporary portable vaporization facility was needed to back up the gas supply to the island. However, the company said that because of the challenges of operating on an active military base, it preferred the Portsmouth location.

In its application for the waiver, the company said it expected transmission system constraints during the next four winters.

“The company has initiated a plan to contract for gas supply, which is expected to resolve the gas supply constraint within the next five years,” National Grid said.

In an interview Thursday, Todd Bianco, coordinator for Energy Facility Siting Board, said that the LNG would be transported to the site by trucks that would be sited at the facility.

LNG will be trucked to the site, where it will be vaporized and injected into the local gas distribution system to provide an emergency backup gas supply to Aquidneck Island. {Jim Magill, S&P Global – Platts.}

Long Island is under a moratorium for new gas service. Estimating that the region will not be able to draw the gas needed to meet peak winter demand,* National Grid has signed a five-year contract with Thigpen Solutions to truck in natural gas. Last winter, Thigpen provided the utility with 204,000 gallons of LNG to supplement its supply on 95 days of the 144-day season. The company plans to use two temporary CNG stations on Long Island to handle peak demand episodes. Last winter the utility operated a single CNG station in Glenwood on Long Island {Gonzales}.

Thigpen currently has more than 200 “winter integrity” projects in 20 states.

CEO Sam Thigpen said that, while his business has capitalized on the opportunities presented by regulatory setbacks for new infrastructure, his end-use solutions are not intended to be a permanent solution to the increasing problem of meeting growing demand. “That’s not a sustainable business model for us. We know we’re expensive. We don’t do this because we’re cheap.”

The road-borne virtual pipelines is not without challenges. “We can haul as many trucks as we can, but weather is a factor during harsh winter conditions. [And] we don’t have the ability to put large-scale storage on certain sites. That’s why they called us to begin with.” {Gonzales}