BHP Files Applications for Deepwater Port; Offshore Pipeline

BHP Billiton has filed applications to construct and operate Cabrillo Port, a liquefied natural gas (LNG) floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) located off the coast of Southern California, and a pipeline connecting this deepwater port to the existing natural gas transportation and distribution infrastructure onshore. The company announced plans for Cabrillo Port last month.

The application for a deepwater port license was submitted to the United States Coast Guard/Maritime Administration on September 3, 2003. Coinciding with this, an application for a land lease was submitted to the California State Lands Commission (CSLC) for the right to construct an undersea pipeline to the shore to deliver the natural gas to the local utility system.

Submitting the applications initiates an extensive environmental review process. Comprehensive studies will cover all aspects of constructing and operating the FSRU, including economic, environmental, marine habitat, and public safety issues. The scope of the environmental analyses must conform to standards set by the National Environmental Protection Act and the California Environmental Quality Act, frequently referred to as "NEPA" and "CEQA", respectively.

The Coast Guard and CSLC will take the lead agency responsibility, pursuant to federal and state environmental laws, and undertake a joint and cooperative environmental and public review process. The company's applications for a deepwater port license and land lease are the first steps in a lengthy process that will include other relevant permit applications, public hearings, and community meetings, in addition to the environmental review. Following public review and approval, BHP Billiton expects the fabrication, construction, and installation of necessary facilities to allow for operations to commence by 2008.