Regulators approve temporary extension on Portsmouth LNG facility for upcoming winter
For the fourth consecutive winter, a Portsmouth liquified natural gas facility will serve as a temporary, backup heating source for Aquidneck Island.
The Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board (ESFB) on Monday unanimously approved extending a temporary waiver allowing the LNG storage tank and vaporization facility for one more winter. The same request by former utility operator National Grid – since acquired by Rhode Island Energy – has been made each year since the winter of 2019-2020.
The 5-acre site on Portsmouth’s Old Mill Lane aims to stave off another disaster like the the now-infamous Aquidneck Island gas outage, which left about 7,000 customers without heat for a frigid January week in 2019, by providing a backup source of gas on-hand.
The temporary waiver extension provides set hours for delivery and testing of the LNG site, which will be operational from Dec. 1 to March 31. Rhode Island Energy also must provide details in a written filing about an LNG delivery which occurred outside of approved business hours last week, as verbally shared with board members on Monday.
Meanwhile, state regulators are separately considering a separate application to make permanent what has been a temporary LNG storage tank and vaporization equipment facility. The $15 million permanent project has drawn mounting criticism by residents and environmental watchdogs, who cite noise and safety concerns as well as state decarbonization mandates, as reasons for their opposition.
The ESFB, which has the final say over proposals to create or significantly change state energy facilities including this one, has been considering arguments both for and against the license application through a slew of preliminary public hearings and written testimony over the last two years, with hearings continuing this fall.
Ronald Gerwatowski, chairman of the ESFB, said Monday he expects the board will issue its decision on the permanent site before the 2024-25 winter, making the upcoming winter the last in which the board will grant a temporary license.
Rhode Island Energy did not immediately respond to inquiries for comment on Monday.