55 Hiroshima Bombs!?

By Surfermag.com Staff.

Not too long ago, your intrepid Surfer Magazine staff learned of plans to build vast, sprawling, enormous liquid natural gas plants off the coast of Baja and Southern California. At first, we raised the alarm because Harry’s, a surf spot whose pristine location and gaping barrels we somehow managed to zealously guard, was now threatened with an unprecedented industrial development. Well, we’ve had time to do a little more digging into the background of liquid natural gas history, mining, production and, particularly, its shipping. Frankly folks, the prospect of these plants dotting the coast is frightening as hell — and whether you live in Ventura, Long Beach, San Clemente, Tijuana, Ensenada, or, God forbid, the Bajamar resort — you have genuine, serious reason to worry.

Why? Well, for a starter, try this number on for size: According to famous insurer Lloyd’s of London, a company that has been insuring ships since the 1600’s, an explosion on an LNG tanker would be approximately equal to “a small nuclear explosion”.

To expand on this a bit: According to a study called Brittle Power, Energy Strategy for National Security, should the unthinkable happen, the energy content of ONE standard liquid natural gas tanker, at 22 billion gallons of expanded gas, is equivalent to .7 megatons of TNT ( that’s 1.4 billion pounds of dynamite). To put it another way, the explosive force on one LNG tanker is equal, roughly, to 55 Hiroshima bombs!

This makes these facilities amazingly attractive to terrorists, or amazingly dangerous in the face of a catastrophic accident.

Look, we know that natural gas burns far cleaner than coal, gasoline or diesel. But many experts believe that there is enough of the stuff just on the North American continent to supply us for years. We here at Surfer don’t claim to have all the answers, but is it worth it to bring these enormous atom bomb ships and their atom bomb plants so close to shore?

Let’s continue by the numbers, shall we? Then you decide…

500,000,000: The cubic feet per day of natural gas to be supplied via the Costa Azul (Harry’s) LNG facility.

3,700,000. The number of tons of LNG likely to come from Indonesia through Costa Azul into Baja annually.

95,000: The number of cubic meters of LNG that would likely be onsite at any given time at the Costa Azul LNG plant. This is equivalent to a quarter hour’s total energy consumption by the entire United States, or 40+ Hiroshima bombs.

100,000,000: The number of gallons of seawater the Costa Azul facility’s 300 megawatt powerplant would require each day to “regassify”, or reconvert the liquid gas into the kind of gas that powers your water heater. This process reduces the temperature of nearby seawater as much as 20 degrees F.

2,300,000,000: The number of gallons San Onofre’s 2150 Megawatt plant pumps through each day for cooling. This process increases the water temperature near the plant over 25 degrees F.

10:The percent of sealife that gets sucked into the system at San O and dies. Though San O has a complicated sealife return system, this still represents about 200lbs of sea dead sea animals a day.

100: The percent of sealife that would die after being sucked into the Costa Azul system.

40: The number of minutes south of Tijuana the Sempra plant would be located. Think a mile south of the Bajamar resort’s boundary, or a few miles north of Salsipuedes.

50+: The height of wintertime waves documented at nearby Todos Santos Island. This whole area in fact, has very deep water offshore, leading to big wintertime waves — as evidenced by this now famous Surfer mag cover shot of Harry’s.

0: The number of acres currently developed on the virgin Costa Azul tract.

1 mile: The length of the breakwall to be constructed where the wave known as Harry’s breaks today.

3: The number of LNG pipelines currently run by Sempra already in Baja. One delivers gas to Mexicali, one to Rosarita Beach, and one from northern Baja to Arizona. The Costa Azul plant would put a pipeline along the route of Mex 1.

741,000: The number of acres of virgin mangrove swamp and forest in Bintuni Bay Indonesia that environmentalists are concerned would be affected by Baja LNG exportation and wells.

7: The number of nearly undisturbed Indonesian tribal groups living on those 741,000 acres.

1/3: The percentage of residents of the Sakhalin Islands off Russia who make a living off fishing and whose prolific fishing and gray whale grounds could be affected by a second LNG drilling facility to supply Baja.

14+: The number of LNG terminals in operation in the world today. Several are in metropolitan areas, including Boston and Tokyo.

5: The number of LNG processing plants proposed in Southern Cal and Baja. One is Costa Azul. One would be 600 yards off the Coronado Islands, within eyeshot of Tijuana and San Diego. Two have been proposed off the Ventura coastline, one in Long Beach, and one off of Camp Pendleton. While not all are expected to be approved, this gives you an idea of how much value petroleum companies put in these plants.

1/2 or less: The percentage of Baja LNG destined for the United States. The rest is to be supplied to Mexico, with increasing percentages over time.

1000 feet long, 15 feet wide: The average size of a LNG tanker. These are, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute, the most expensive non-military ships in the world.

-260 degrees F: The temperature natural gas must be cooled to to convert to a liquid. Absolute Zero, the coldest anything can get, is -459F. If leaking -260 degree gas were to spill onto a ship’s hull, it could destroy the ship by immediately “embrittling” the metal.

628: The number of times less space liquid natural gas takes up than regular natural gas. This means a horrendous amount of energy can be transported on these tankers. Far, far more than on a standard oil tanker. Furthermore, these tanks are insulated with highly flammable polystyrene plastic, which burns with a toxic black smoke.