More than 50 new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) importterminals are currently proposed for North America. Each of these developments will face the challenges of risk management and public risk perception. They are all dependent on support from local elected leadership and on a plan and ability to manage public communication. Failure to address these issues may cause rejected developments, lost opportunities and significant non-return costs.
The questions of facility safety and security are raised as stakeholders and interest groups ask ‘what if’ questions regarding possible accident scenarios, such as ‘What is the maximum hazard area if a storage tank collapses, a LNG carrier is penetrated, or an offloading accident occurs?’ The questions are often characterized by misconceptions, but are nevertheless of vital importance. In order to answer thesequestions, safety and security aspects of LNG transport, storage and re-gasification must be communicated appropriately. How can the facility be perceived as ‘safe’ given the severity of the worst possible consequences from major accidents?
Safety can be assured and enforced through compliance with a pre-defined set of risk acceptance criteria. These criteria can be absolute and tangible, or they may be more abstract. Different practices are accepted in different regions, countries, and states, as well as in different industry segments. Ideally, risk acceptance criteria should be regulated by authorities. This provides non-biased definition of safety and can remove safety as the alibi to oppose industrial developments. The debate can then focus on the real drivers for opposition such as deteriorated property values, deterioration of aesthetics and restrictions of pleasure craft activities in waterways also used by LNG carriers. Developers may use compliance with internationally recognized risk acceptance criteria if not enforced by regulators. It can be helpful in communication with stakeholders and gives credibility to safety documentation. Documentation of compliance with risk acceptance criteria provides answers to ‘How can I be safe without zero risk?’
North America is facing an increasing demand for natural gas; however, the domestic natural gas supply is decreasing. It is predicted that the United States will face a natural gas supply gap of about 5 trillion cubic feet by 2020 . Therefore, the need for imports of LNG will continue to increase. In addition, the profitability and relatively low potential environmental impact from LNG will spur many projects over the next several years. Safety and security issues are brought to the fore when these projects are proposed. How should the risk associated with existing and proposed projects be presented to and perceived by the public? Stakeholders, including facility owners, public, and regulatory agencies, often have different points of view concerning LNG risk. The decision-making process concerning the projects becomes challenging when conflicts exist between the different parties. What risks are acceptable for the public? This paper will address the issue of risk acceptance criteria associated with LNG facilities.