(U.S., GoM)- The Bahamas government's lack of response on Suez Energy's application for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal in Freeport has forced the French energy company to change its strategy. Suez's subsidiary Suez Energy North America now plans to file an application for another U.S. LNG terminal offshore Florida.
Suez Energy North America's CEO William P. Utt said the Florida project would be a carbon copy of the company's Neptune LNG facility planned for offshore Gloucester, Massachusetts. The Neptune facility will expand Suez's New England LNG capacity, which currently includes the onshore Everett, MA, LNG terminal near Boston. Utt said the same type of project could work off Florida's coast.
"We have not heard anything from the Bahamas in about a year," Utt said during a briefing with reporters in Boston last week. "We are continuing to try to engage in a dialogue. We have very good relations with the Grand Bahama Port Authority around Freeport; it has been a very good sponsor for us. But the government, for reasons I will leave to the government, has not elected to move forward on issuing any permits for any of the sites in the Bahamas."
Three LNG import projects were originally proposed for the Bahamas: Ocean Cay, sponsored by AES Corp.; Hawksbill Creek, proposed by Suez; and a third project proposed by El Paso and FPL Group. FPL, El Paso and Suez later agreed that they would combine their projects and utilize the more attractive of the two locations on Grand Bahama Island. AES had planned to develop its terminal on its own man-made island. Both AES and Suez already have FERC-certificated pipeline projects that would deliver the regasified LNG to the Florida peninsula from the Bahamas.
"The government before was very pro business and things got done," said Utt. "This government that exists today appears less able to evaluate and feel comfortable making commitments for industrial development. They are very focused on tourism. Some of our programs had been to improve the tourism in the Bahamas. I think a lot of folks are frustrated."
In the meantime, Utt said Suez is moving forward quickly with its plans for an offshore Florida LNG terminal. "We are actively putting together our applications for [the offshore Florida terminal]," he added. "We may be filing that in the next 60 days.
"The pipeline already is approved so we will just truncate it offshore," said Utt. "It will be far enough offshore so that the visual impact and the safety impact should be very remote to any Floridian."
Utt also added that the economics of both projects would be improved by the fact that two offshore terminals in the Atlantic with similar designs would both incorporate ships with onboard regasification.