The Storage and Transportation of LNG: What Could Go Wrong?

Lonnie E. Click, a fire chief in Benton County in southern Washington, was at his desk when he first heard the call: an explosion at a liquified natural gas storage facility. 

The call was outside his jurisdiction but, based on what he was hearing on the radio, he decided to head to the scene. From atop a hill, Click could see smoke coming from the plant 20 miles away.

Federal investigators would later describe a “rolling detonation” at the facility on March 31, 2014, that set off a large fire and explosion that injured five workers and could be felt up to six miles away.

The explosion was so forceful that pieces of metal greater than 2,000 pounds were propelled more than a quarter of a mile, Click recalled at a 2016 conference.

A 2,000-pound piece of debris was propelled a quarter of a mile away in the explosion at the plant. PHOTO Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

Some 200 people in nearby Plymouth and communities within a two-mile radius were evacuated as the vaporized liquid, which could ignite and set off another fire or explosion, “flowed like water coming out of your faucet,” Click said.

The plant’s control room took a “significant hit” and all safety systems were destroyed, he said. No operable monitoring equipment was left at the plant, which had two 90-foot-tall storage tanks with a capacity of 1.2 billion cubic feet of LNG. 

The control room, left, sustained serious damage. There was no working monitoring equipment and so no way to tell which valves were on and which were off at the plant. PHOTO Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

“The initiating event – an explosion with subsequent fire. All bets are off,” Click said. “It’s not a normal operation anymore.”

Firefighters were on the scene into the next morning in what was the most serious LNG accident in recent American history.

LNG: A record of safety but with notable exceptions

For more than seven decades, the United States has used LNG commercially and, for the most part, safely. Tanker ships have traveled more than 128 million miles without a serious accident at sea or in port, the Congressional Research Service said in a 2009 report. 

But “the safety record of onshore LNG terminals is more mixed,” the report said. Since 1944, there have been 13 serious accidents involving LNG facilities. 

Improved technology and standards have made LNG facilities safer but, the report said, “serious hazards remain” because LNG is “inherently volatile and is usually shipped and stored in large quantities.”

And when things go wrong with LNG, they can go catastrophically wrong.

In one of the deadliest LNG-related disasters in three decades, an explosion in 2004 flattened a large part of an Algerian port, killing 30 people and injuring 70 more

And in 1944 in Cleveland, a tank with the equivalent of 90 million cubic feet of LNG exploded, setting off the most disastrous fire in city’s history and creating a hellscape that killed 130 people and displaced nearly 700. 

A second tank exploded, setting off a tidal wave of fire that ultimately consumed 217 cars, 79 homes and two factories.

“The vaporizing gas also flowed along the curbs and gutters and into catch basins, through which it entered the underground sewers, exploding from time to time, ripping up pavement, damaging underground utility installations, and blowing out manhole covers,” according to a Case Western Reserve University history of the fire.

“An LNG accident would be a “black swan” event, a rare occurrence with potentially severe outcomes.”

Patrick Hardy, chief executive of Hytropy Disaster Management, a disaster preparedness firm

In the past 10 years, there have been 22 reportable LNG incidents, resulting in a total of $82.1 million in property damage and related costs, federal data show. At $45 million, the costliest was at the Williams Companies plant in Plymouth, Wash.

Homes in Cleveland were engulfed in flames after LNG tanks owned by the East Ohio Gas Company exploded on Oct. 20, 1944, killing 130 people. PHOTO from The Cleveland Press Collection, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University

What happened in Algeria, Cleveland and Plymouth underscores the potential dangers of LNG as New Fortress Energy proposes to haul the super-cooled natural gas nearly 200 miles by rail and highway from a plant in Wyalusing, Pa., to a Delaware River port in Gibbstown, N.J. 

The project would mean up to 100 LNG rail cars – critics call them “bomb trains” – and hundreds of highway tankers snaking through or near densely populated communities, such as Allentown, Reading, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre and sections of Philadelphia and its suburbs. 

New Fortress has not publicly disclosed its rail and highway routes but a map created by the FracTracker Alliance shows various paths could potentially cut through as many as 18 Pennsylvania and New Jersey counties, 15 of them in the Delaware River watershed.  

In 2019, an affiliate of New Fortress secured a groundbreaking special permit from federal regulators to transport LNG by rail in cryogenic tankers that project supporters say would offer multiple layers of protections.

An environmental assessment for the special permit dismissed the accidents in Plymouth and Cleveland as not analogous to transporting LNG by highway or rail. 

It said the Cleveland disaster resulted from “embrittlement of the inner metal tank because it was unsuitable for cryogenic temperatures” and the Plymouth explosion was caused by “human error” – failing to properly purge flammable vapors from piping during maintenance activities.

A tank with 90 million cubic feet of LNG exploded. A second tank exploded, setting off a tidal wave of fire. PHOTO from The Cleveland Press Collection, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University

The National Transportation Safety Board objected to the special LNG rail permit, saying the project sponsors extrapolated findings based on data about the accident history of similar hazardous materials transported in a small fleet of similar rail tank cars.

“Making engineering assumptions based on the performance of pressure tank cars with completely different features and operating parameters” (as was done in a risk analysis by a consultant company hired by New Fortress) “does not provide a statistically significant or valid safety assessment,” the agency said.

The environmental group Earthjustice, which opposes the LNG-by-rail plan, has warned that the project “would allow an unprecedented, abrupt opening of the United States mainline rail system to long, heavy, hard‐to‐handle unit trains of LNG, using a 50‐year-old rail tank car design” that has never been used to transport LNG. 

Bradley Marshall, a staff attorney for Earthjustice, said what happened in Cleveland could happen with the rupture of rail tankers carrying more than 30,000 gallons of LNG: A leak makes its way into a sewer system and ignites. 

“It would easily destroy an entire city that way,” he said. 

Predicting LNG’s uncontrolled behavior

Patrick Hardy, chief executive of Hytropy Disaster Management, a disaster preparedness firm, described an LNG accident as a “low-probability, high-consequence” catastrophe, or what emergency managers refer to as a “black swan” event, a rare occurrence with potentially severe outcomes. 

In the event of an LNG accident, emergency response guidance dictates evacuating a mile in every direction – a daunting prospect in a densely populated area like Philadelphia, where Earthjustice said it would mean the speedy relocation of some 36,000 people.

A screen grab from a U.S. National Response Team training video shows the characteristics of an LNG pool fire.

Fred Millar, a rail safety and hazardous materials transportation expert, said a worst-case scenario of an LNG release would be a dense, ground-hugging vapor cloud that travels far downwind and explodes in a confined space.

The vapor cloud would not have to be confined in a conventional structure but could be trapped “under a rail car, between two homes, in a ditch or ravine or being held up by a wall or even dense vegetation,” he wrote in affidavit filed by Earthjustice. 

LNG in its liquid state is not flammable but the vapors from a release or spill are flammable at concentrations of 5 to 15 percent. If LNG were to spill near an ignition source, the evaporating gas could burn above the spill, resulting in a “pool fire” that would spread as the spill spread.

“Such a pool fire is intense, burning far more hotly and rapidly than crude oil or gasoline fires, and it cannot be extinguished,” two Democratic members of Congress, Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, noted in a letter to the  Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in 2019. “The risks of such an incident include thermal radiation” that could be felt up to a mile away from an explosion.

Rail risks

LNG has long been safely moved by marine vessels and highway tankers but transporting it by rail changes the equation, Hardy said.

“It creates a new system of issues,” he said, adding that factors such as how many curves a train might take along a route and the number of crossings it makes, should be considered.

Vandalism of rail tracks is also not unheard of, he added. “Kids screw around with trains,” he said.

From 1997 to 2018 in Bradford County, Pa., home to Wyalusing, there were nine casualties in railroad accidents, two of which were fatal. Both fatalities were related to individuals trespassing on the tracks, according to the county’s hazard mitigation plan. And from 1977-99, there were three derailments that resulted in unspecified hazardous materials being leaked, the report said.

“Railroad collisions and derailments exert so much crush force. Cars pile up on each other and are fire and explosion hazards.”

Fred Millar, rail safety and hazardous materials expert

The primary risk associated with transporting LNG in a rail tanker would be a derailment, a breach of the vessel and a fire. This could range from a relatively small fire from a controlled release to an explosion in what is known as a BLEVE, boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion.

“Railroad collisions and derailments exert so much crush force,” Millar said. “Cars pile up on each other and are fire and explosion hazards.”

A nick or puncture of the outside casing of a rail tanker could potentially compromise its protective vacuum, undermining the overall effectiveness of the insulation that keeps LNG super-cooled to 260 degrees below zero, said Wendy J. Buckley, president and chief executive officer of Specialty Transportation and Regulatory Services

What would happen would be akin to a crack in a window of an airplane at a high altitude – it would depressurize the cabin, or in this case, the tanker car.

“The loss of insulation would allow heat transfer to occur from the surrounding air into the inner tank,” she said. “This would warm the very cold material inside, causing it to ‘boil’ and turn to vapor, similar to the way a pot of water turns to steam when it boils. This vapor would increase the pressure in the tank. The faster it warmed, the more intense the pressure increase would be.”

The upgraded rail tanker, known as a DOT-113C120W9, features two pressure relief devices instead of one, so it could vent much faster and “therefore forestall catastrophic failure much longer” than an older model DOT-111 tank car model, which had a single hull with one layer of steel and no vacuum buffer, she said.

The likelihood of a chain reaction of one tank car after another breaching and catching fire is great, and would require the cars to be relatively close to each other, she said. 

“However, even when a train derails and several cars end up piled up together, it’s never all 110 cars in the heap,” she said. “It would be statistically impossible for all 110 cars to end up in a single heap and explode simultaneously or for all 110 cars to catch fire in succession due to a cascading BLEVE.”

How do the rail tankers perform?

The rail tankers permitted to transport LNG would feature thicker outer shells and would need to be manufactured from scratch. But the existing models upon which those tankers are based have not been immune to trouble.

From 1980 to 2017, there were 14 cases of DOT-113 tank cars being damaged. In two of those cases, the outer jacket and inner tank were breached – the most serious kind of damage. 

There were four additional instances in which tankers lost their cargo because of damage or failures related to valves or fittings, federal records show.

Flames and smoke from burning boxcars containing ethylene in Moran, Kan., in 2011. Three DOT-113C120 tanker cars, similar to the ones that would carry LNG, sustained significant damage. PHOTO from Lawrence Journal-World

In May 2011 in Moran, Kan., three tankers with ethylene were breached in a derailment and caught fire.

More than 50 people had to be evacuated and the fire – “a large orange glow” in the sky that could be seen from at least 10 miles away, according to federal records – burned through the night. 

The fire consumed the contents of one tanker and two other tankers were breached with explosives to expedite the consumption of their contents. Adjusted for inflation, the derailment did more than $2 million in damage.

The other serious derailment happened in October 2014 in Mer Rouge, La., after a train struck a tractor-trailer that was stuck on the tracks. A DOT-113 tanker and a tank car similar in design filled with refrigerated liquid argon were breached. About 50 homes and businesses had to be evacuated. 

No injuries or fatalities were reported in either derailment but DeFazio and Malinowski noted that federal regulators acknowledged there is little emergency responders can do if a cryogenic liquid rail tanker is breached.

“Response and mitigation techniques beyond evacuation for breaches in cryogenic tank cars do not exist or are impractical during a derailment scenario,” a draft environmental statement for the special rail permit said.

Other derailments generally do not result in a loss of the entire cargo compared to breaches of cryogenic tankers.

The average quantity spilled per derailment involving cryogenic liquids carried in DOT-113 tankers was 45,769 gallons, or about 10 times greater than the average quantity spilled for all rail incidents involving hazardous materials from 2005 to 2017.

LNG Rail Tank Cars: The Few and the Unknown

New questions have emerged about the availability, safety and risks associated with the specialized rail cars that would be the backbone of a plan to transport liquified natural gas by rail from Wyalusing, Pa., to Gibbstown, N.J., Delaware Currents has found.

Among the issues:

  • The tankers specifically authorized to transport LNG, which would feature a thicker outer shell, do not now exist. Experts said there’s little interest among manufacturers to build the cars.
  • Risk managers and regulators repeatedly have said that data assessing the safety of transporting LNG by rail do not exist because it’s never been done before.
    “We don’t know what the hell we’re dealing with,” Fred Millar, an independent railway and hazardous materials transportation expert, said. “This is really new and really untested in our historical experience.”
  • Current specialized cryogenic tankers that transport super-cooled liquids, known as DOT-113C120Wcars, would be nearly identical to the models permitted to carry LNG but those cars exist in numbers too few to support the Pennsylvania-to-New Jersey project and no one is manufacturing them anymore.
    One expert likened finding replacement parts for those tankers to finding parts for a rare automobile.
  • As robustly protective as the newly required tankers might be, they would be hard-pressed to guard against high-speed derailments, experts said.
    Studies have also found that at even relatively low speeds, tankers sustained considerable damage, resulting in the release of their content in derailments. Though those incidents involved older, less-reinforced models, they still serve as a cautionary history.

The few

Federal regulators issued a special permit to a New Fortress Energy subsidiary for LNG to be transported by rail from Pennsylvania to New Jersey in a robustly more protective tanker that would be known as a DOT-113C120W9.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, in issuing the permit, required an upgrade to the existing design of DOT-113C120W tankers, with the new ones requiring a thicker outer shell.

About 500 DOT-113 cars remain active in the United States, but of those, only 85 have the DOT-113C120 designation. At any given time,12 to 15 of them are out of service for maintenance, federal officials said.

The DOT-113C120 cars meet the requirements to transport ethylene refrigerated liquid, a cryogenic flammable similar to LNG, officials said. The remaining DOT-113 cars are designed to transport non-flammable cryogenic materials, such as argon and nitrogen.

None of the models required to carry LNG exist and would have to be manufactured from scratch. Further, the DOT-113 is “an expensive tank car to design with limited demand that is still unclear,” said Thomas P. Jackson, vice president of marketing for The Greenbrier Companies, one of the leading suppliers of equipment for freight rail services.

“No one is building this tank right now,” he said. “No current production plans or any units in backlog.”

Jackson said he had “some discussions” with New Fortress and offered guidance on lead times to design and build the DOT-113C120W9 tankers but indicated there was no actual formal order.

(One government document said the costs to build each tanker would be $650,000 to $750,000.)

He also said it was unclear whether the Wyalusing-to-Gibbstown project, which has drawn opposition from environmental and other groups, would move ahead under a Biden administration.

“The transportation risk of LNG in the U.S. is currently unknown.”

— Exponent, risk assessment consultants

Nicole Brewin, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the Railway Supply Institute, a trade association, echoed Jackson’s assessment. She described the tankers as “a very niche part of the industry and not many people have invested in the development of the DOT-113 tank cars.”

Wendy J. Buckley, president and chief executive officer of Specialty Transportation and Regulatory Services, said in her 25 years of working in hazardous materials transportation, she’s only ever seen two DOT-113s in the field and was unaware of any new ones having been built in at least 15 years. She described securing parts for the DOT-113s as akin to finding the parts for a vintage car.

She said existing DOT-113C120W models could theoretically be retrofitted with a thicker outer shell but that it would probably be prohibitively expensive. Jackson added that steel prices have tripled in the last few months.

Chart Industries, a maker of specialized LNG tank cars, declined to comment. Other manufacturers did not respond to inquiries.

How the lack of a marketplace for LNG tankers might affect the New Fortress project is unknown. Also unclear is whether it might prompt the company to transport more LNG by highway, which studies have said would be more dangerous. A company spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The unknowns

Exponent, a consulting company hired by New Fortress to conduct a risk assessment, broadly downplayed safety concerns of transporting LNG by rail while simultaneously acknowledging much was unknown.

“The public perception of LNG risks is inexplicably misaligned with the risks compared to other common flammable commodities,” it wrote in 2015, adding: “LPG [Liquified Petroleum Gas] has a long history of transport as a commodity in the U.S., and the transportation risk is broadly accepted by society. The transportation risk of LNG [Liquified Natural Gas] in the U.S. is currently unknown.”

It said the breach of a cryogenic tank car “will typically result in the loss of the entire volume of material in the tank car” and that “despite the low probability, rail incidents can be high-consequence events” given the quantity of hazardous materials being transported.

The rail industry boasts that “more than 99.99 percent of all hazmat moved by rail reaches its destination without a release caused by a train accident.” And the PHMSA noted that the DOT-113 tank cars have a “demonstrated safety record of over 50 years.”

“More than 100,000 rail shipments of cryogenic material in DOT-113 tank cars have taken place with no reported fatalities or serious injuries occurring due to a train-accident caused release of product,” it said.

“We don’t know what the hell we’re dealing with.”

— Fred Millar, independent railway and hazardous materials transportation expert

In a 2019 report, the PHMSA said 73 incidents involving cryogenic ethylene tank cars between 1977 and 2015 were identified, with only five being labeled serious.

But Earthjustice, which opposes the project, questioned the suitability of the tankers, noting that of three derailments of the DOT-113C120 tank cars cited in a government assessment, “all three ended up either breaching or needing to be breached and losing their entire cargoes.”

“This represents 4.5 percent of the entire DOT-113C120 tank car fleet,” it said.

Buckley, the hazmat transportation expert, said trains in the past might have at most run one or two of the specialized tankers. New Fortress, though, is proposing unit trains – ones that transport a single commodity — of up to 100 such cars.

“I think the biggest risk is all of the unknowns,” she said. As for the risk assessments, Buckley said: “Truly, what they are doing is guessing. It’s a brand-new industry. It’s difficult to guess what is going to happen.”

The rail industry boasts that “more than 99.99 percent of all hazmat moved by rail reaches its destination without a release caused by a train accident.” PHOTO BY CHRIS MELE

Unsafe at any speed?

The biggest risk with LNG cars would be a catastrophic failure of all the tankers in a high-speed accident, Buckley said.

“If you get a train going off the rails and the bridge goes out, there’s not anything anybody can do about what’s going to happen next,” she said.

Opponents have pointed to the 2013 freight train disaster in Lac-Mégantic Quebec that killed 47 people. In that case, the train, which was going more than 65 m.p.h. on a tight curve, derailed and more than a million gallons of fuel spilled and exploded.

“There can be no rail car ever built that will withstand going 66 miles per hour into the side of a building,” Buckley said.

But it’s not just high-speed derailments that are a source of concern, warned Millar, the independent railway expert, who provided an affidavit in support of Earthjustice’s opposition to the special permit.

In an interview, Millar cited a comment made in 2014 by Karl Alexy, who is now associate administrator for railroad safety and chief safety officer at the Federal Railroad Administration: “When you begin to look at cars that are derailing at speeds of 30, 40 miles an hour, it’s very difficult, it’s a big ask, to expect that a tank car get hit and not be breached.”

While these other cars were of designs less protective than the DOT-113 models, the lessons are still instructive, Millar said.

“If you are sending unit trains of volatile gas at freight speed, you can’t build a train car that will withstand puncture at that speed,” he said.

Robert Chipkevich, a former head of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Hazardous Materials Accident Investigation Program for 20 years, testified in 2016 that “many of the catastrophic crude oil and ethanol train accidents between 2006 and 2015 were operating at speeds below maximum speeds” set by federal rules.

He added that 17 of 24 serious accidents he reviewed happened at speeds of 40 m.p.h. or less, and eight of them were at speeds of 25 m.p.h. or less.

Millar said trains even going at lower speeds were not immune from trouble: In December, a crude oil train in Custer, Wash., going 7 m.p.h. derailed, causing 10 cars to leave the tracks and five of them to burn.

The special permit issued for the New Fortress project limits train speeds to 50 m.p.h.

These tank cars feature tank-within-a-tank designs similar to a Thermos bottle. PHOTO CREDIT: WENDY J. BUCKLEY/SPECIALTY TRANSPORTATION AND REGULATORY SERVICES

About the tankers

The existing DOT-113C120W tankers and new LNG cars feature tank-within-a-tank designs similar to a Thermos bottle. The outer tank is made of carbon steel, the inner one of stainless steel. Insulation of fiberglass or Perlite and a vacuum between the tanks keeps the cargo super-cooled to as low as 260 degrees below zero.

Regulators required the LNG tankers to have a minimum outer shell thickness of 9/16th of an inch – a little less than two iPhone X model phones stacked together. That’s an increase from 7/16th of an inch of existing models.Regulations require the internal shell to have a minimum thickness of 3/16th inch.

Those measurements might not sound like a lot but compared to other rail cars these tankers are quite robust, Buckley said.

The PHMSA noted that a crude oil tanker with a 9/16th of an inch outer shell that crashed last year in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan had “62 percent fewer shell punctures” compared to tankers with 7/16th of an inch outer shell carrying crude oil and ethanol that crashed in North Dakota and Ohio. None of the tankers involved were of the DOT-113 models.

“I think the biggest risk is all of the unknowns.”

— Wendy J. Buckley, president and chief executive officer of Specialty Transportation and Regulatory Services

But an impact test conducted last year by the Federal Railroad Administration on a DOT-113 tanker with 9/16th of an inch outer shell that was purpose-built for the test showed it withstood a “ram car” weighing 297,000 pounds going 17.3 m.p.h. Neither the inner nor outer shell were torn, the test found.

This is in contrast to a previous similar test involving a DOT-113 tanker with 7/16th of an inch outer shell. In that case, the ram car was going 16.7 m.p.h. and both tanks were punctured, the FRA reported.

The agency said it plans two more tests using cryogenic liquid in the inner tank to understand how cryogenic conditions affect puncture behavior.

Residents in Bradford County, Pa., worry about how flooding may affect local rail lines, which hug the Susquehanna River. PHOTO BY CHRIS MELE

Rail conditions

Still, upgraded protective cars are no guarantee against derailments.

2018 study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said a review of federal data found that “that track, roadbed, and structure problems” were behind more than 44 percent of all reportable derailments from 2005-15.

It’s an issue not lost on Diane Ward, a resident of Bradford County, Pa., which is home to Wyalusing.

In comments filed in response to the special permit application, she raised concerns about flooding and how it might affect rails. There is “a real and growing probability of derailment of LNG tank cars,” she wrote, noting cars had derailed in 2019 along tracks the LNG trains would follow.

Pennsylvania recently announced that the Lehigh Railwaywhich would make up an important first leg of the journey from Wyalusing to transport LNG, will get $506,100 to replace approximately 4,900 rail ties as part of a rail freight improvement program.

In November, the R.J. Corman Railroad Group completed its purchase of the Lehigh Railway.

The new owner did not respond to a request for comment about the New Fortress project.

Gibbstown LNG Project: Chronology

For our complete coverage of the Wyalusing, Pa./ Gibbstown, N.J. LNG project, please click here.

Aug. 21, 2017: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration receives an application from Energy Transport Solutions, a subsidiary of New Fortress Energy, for a special permit to transport “methane, refrigerated liquid,” otherwise known as liquid natural gas, in specialized rail cars.

Oct. 2, 2017: The DOT publishes a notice in the Federal Register about a review of “regulations and other agency actions” to determine whether they are still needed and “evaluate whether they potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources.”

Nov. 29, 2018: Wyalusing Township (Pa.) supervisors approved two conditional-use permits for a gas-processing plant in the township.

March 1, 2019: Delaware River Partners, a subsidiary of New York City-based Fortress Investment Group, applies to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for a waterfront development individual permit and water quality certificate, NJDEP tidelands license (dredging), and NJDEP tidelands license (fixed structure) and applies to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permits for the Gibbstown Logistics Center.

March 12, 2019: Delaware River Partners applies to the Delaware River Basin Commission for dredging and wharf construction project permits for the port at Gibbstown.

April 10, 2019: President Trump issues an executive order directing the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to make way for rail cars to transport LNG.

May 20, 2019: NJDEP issues a waterfront development individual permit. The next month, it suspends the permit because of “a procedural error” in the publication about the application in the DEP Bulletin. DEP reinstates the permit on Sept. 5, 2019.

June 6, 2019: The DRBC calls a public hearing for the Gibbstown project.

The same day, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration publishes in the Federal Register a draft environmental assessment about the special permit sought by Energy Transport Solutions and seeks public comment.

June 12, 2019: DRBC commissioners unanimously approve the Gibbstown project. The next month, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network appeals the commission’s decision, prompting a hearing and a stay of the approval.

Aug. 7, 2019: After receiving nearly 3,000 comments, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration closes the public comment period on the special permit request by Energy Transport Solutions.

Sept. 9, 2019: NJDEP issues a tidelands license for dredging and for a fixed structure.

Oct. 24, 2019: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, in consultation with the Federal Railroad Administration, publishes proposed rules to broadly allow for the transportation of liquid natural gas by rail.

A 60-day comment period follows, which is extended by 30 days to Jan. 13, 2020, at the request of the attorneys general of New York and Maryland.

Nov. 19, 2019: National Marine Fisheries Service issues a letter of concurrence with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Gibbstown project.

Dec. 5, 2019: A special permitwhich expires Nov. 30, 2021, is issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to Energy Transport Solutions to allow for the transport of LNG by specialized rail cars.

Dec. 16, 2019: The Gloucester County (N.J.) Soil Conservation District issues a soil erosion and sediment control plan certification.

Dec. 18, 2019: The U.S. Coast Guard issues a "Letter of Recommendation" for the Repauno Port and Rail Terminal in Gibbstown to handle LNG as well as liquified petroleum gas.

Jan. 14, 2020: NJDEP grants a pollutant discharge elimination system permit.

Jan. 31, 2020: Appalachia Midstream applies to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for the construction of a 20-inch diameter natural gas pipeline of nearly 3 miles that would cross the Susquehanna River and come into the proposed gas-processing plant in Wyalusing.

Feb. 25, 2020: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issues a permit for the Dock 2 Project, authorizing construction of the new docking facility and dredging in the waterway.

March 2, 2020: The Greenwich Township (N.J.) Planning Board grants site plan approval.

April 28, 2020: The Gloucester County (N.J.) Planning Board grants site plan approval.

May 2020: A hearing officer takes testimony regarding an appeal by the Riverkeeper Network of the DRBC’s decision to approve the project’s permits.

June 19, 2020: A new regulation allowing the transportation of LNG by rail car is published by the federal Department of Transportation.

July 24, 2020: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issues a final rule authorizing the nationwide transportation of LNG by rail in DOT–113C120W rail tank cars.

July 21, 2020: A hearing officer submits his report and recommends upholding the DRBC’s approval of the project’s permits.

July 22, 2020The Rocket-Courier of Wyalusing, Pa., reports that officials from New Fortress Energy confirm construction of the Wyalusing facility in Pennsylvania is on “pause” while additional planning and coordination with subcontractors continues.

Sept. 11, 2020: Delaware River Partners petitions the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, seeking a declaratory order that its project in Gibbstown is exempt from FERC jurisdiction. Several environmental groups oppose the petition.

Sept. 18, 2020: Bradford County Real Estate Partners petitions the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seeking a declaratory order that its project in Wyalusing, Pa., is exempt from FERC jurisdiction. Several environmental groups oppose the petition.

Oct. 7, 2020: Bradford County LNG Marketing applies for authorization from the federal Department of Energy to export LNG to Free Trade Agreement nations.

Dec. 9, 2020: DRBC commissioners vote 4-0, with New York’s designee abstaining, to endorse the hearing officer’s recommendations to approve the project.

Dec. 22, 2020: New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy, says he would seek to block any export of LNG at the port.

“The Administration, however, remains unwavering in its commitment to continue advancing critical initiatives to protect the environment and public health for future generations. It will explore all avenues within its authority to prevent the use of this dock for LNG transport,” the governor says, NJ Spotlight reported.

Jan. 12, 2021: Appalachia Midstream withdraws its application to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for the construction of a 20-inch diameter natural gas pipeline that would come into the proposed gas-processing plant in Wyalusing.

March 12, 2021: The U.S. Department of Energy grants Bradford County LNG Marketing, a New Fortress-affiliated entity, authorization to export LNG to Free Trade Nations under the Natural Gas Act. The authorization is good until 2050.

June 23, 2021: A New Jersey appeals court rejects a challenge to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issuing a waterfront development permit and
water quality certificate to Delaware River Partners, another New Fortress Energy-related company, for what is known as Dock 2 at the Gibbstown port.

2022: Production of LNG at the Wyalusing plant is expected to start in the first quarter of 2022, the company says in a federal filing.