Coast Guard and MARAD Publish Final EIS for LNG Terminal

McMoRan Exploration says that the US Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration (MARAD) have published the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the planned Main Pass Energy Hub (MPEH) license application.

McMoRan is pursuing development of the MPEH, an offshore facility for receiving and processing liquefied natural gas (LNG) that would be located east of the Mississippi River Delta.

The Coast Guard has scheduled public hearings for the week of March 20, 2006. The governors of the adjacent coastal states (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama) will have 45 days from the date of the last public hearing to respond to MARAD on the license application, with a record of decision on the application expected by the end of June 2006.

The Final EIS evaluated potential impacts associated with MPEH. According to McMoRan, it concludes that the environmental impacts associated with the construction and operation of MPEH would be expected to result in minor long-term adverse impacts. The EIS assessed the impact to fisheries of using the Open Rack Vaporizer alternative for the project and indicated that this system would have "direct, adverse, minor impacts on biological resources."

The methodology used in the EIS to assess the impact on biological resources did not consider potential benefits from varying the depth of seawater intakes or mitigation strategies that could reduce the potential impacts. Based on additional technical studies not included in the EIS that consider the location of MPEH in 210 feet of water and mitigation measures expected to be included in the project's deepwater port license, McMoRan expects the potential environmental impacts from MPEH, evaluated to be minor in the EIS, can be further reduced.

"The publication of the Final EIS is a significant milestone as we near completion of the permitting process for our proposed major new LNG port," said McMoRan Co-Chairmen James R. Moffett and Richard C. Adkerson. "The MPEH project would provide critical supplies of natural gas to our nation, generate substantial direct economic benefits through job creation, and investment in our Gulf Coast region and be operated in an environmentally responsible manner. We look forward to completing our work with applicable federal and state agencies in a timely fashion."

The MPEH terminal would be capable of regasifying LNG at a rate of 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas (Bcf) per day. The use of existing facilities provides significant cost advantages, and the proposed project benefits from its offshore location near established shipping lanes. Additional investments are being considered to develop significant on-site cavern storage for natural gas in the large salt dome structure at this site and for pipeline connections to enhance gas delivery from Main Pass to a broad range of markets in the US. The proposed design includes 28 Bcf of initial cavern storage availability, and aggregate peak deliverability from the proposed terminal, including deliveries from storage, of up to 2.5 Bcf per day.