Sempra Energy Banking On Fossil Fuels
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / May 16, 2019
Sempra Energy, the San Diego-based energy giant, has begun producing liquid natural gas (LNG) from its recently opened Cameron facility in Louisiana.
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Speaker 1: 00:00 As San Diego moves towards its goal of 100% renewable energy. San Diego based Sempra energy just launched a worldwide fossil fuel expansion. SEMPRA's knew Cameron liquid natural gas facility in Louisiana opened this week with an endorsement from president Trump
Speaker 2: 00:17 and now instead of relying on foreign oil and foreign energy, we are now relying on American energy and American workers like never before. The energy we produce here in our country is better, cheaper and cleaner than our foreign competitors and it's not even close. You people know that better than anybody that's your business.
Speaker 1: 00:40 Sandra says it's liquid, natural gas or LNG will be exported around the world and is much less polluting than the coal and oil presently being used. Environmentalist say that LNG still causes greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to climate change. Sempra and its partners expect the Cameron plant to be highly lucrative. Just one of the anticipated three level operation is expected to generate up to $450 million a year. Joining me is San Diego Union Tribune Energy Reporter Rob Nicola Pesky Rob, welcome to the program to be back. Now, this is this Sempra's first entry into the global energy market.
Speaker 3: 01:19 Well, for the most part, at least to the LNG market is had been talked about for a long time. And this Cameron Facility, uh, the export, uh, uh, end of this has been in construction for a number of years now and on Tuesday they debuted it. So it's the first time that separate as jumped into the LNG export market, which has really been booming in the United States in the last couple of years.
Speaker 1: 01:41 What about the Sempra plant, the LNG plant in Ensanata? What is that?
Speaker 3: 01:46 That is an import facility because they give you an idea of how quickly things can change in the energy industry. A number of years ago, I'd say 10, 15 years ago, the thought was the United States needed to import liquefied natural gas. So they built an import facility down in Ensanata and also the Cameron facility. Interestingly enough, was originally an import facility. If you go to the, the Cameron site, which is gigantic, it's that the entire real estate takes up two miles, two miles long, half a mile wide. And there's three very large storage tankers, about 200 feet. Um, the, the, the rise about 200 feet in the air. Those storage tanks were originally for import a but now they're going to be used for export because now the United States is producing so much natural gas
Speaker 1: 02:34 and is, are there plans to expand it that way in Ensonata to make it an export for sales?
Speaker 3: 02:40 Yeah, that's, there are some plans for that. A separate hasn't actually made the final investment decision on doing that, but they've lined up a lot of the permits. I think they've got pretty much all the permits they need, not just from the u s but also from Mexico. They may be one more permit they might need to get from Mexico, but uh, if they go through with this, uh, export facility in Ensanata, it, it will be very crucial for them. Because if you've got something at an LNG export facility right on the Pacific Ocean Ocean, which is where in Sonata is, then you, if you're exporting LNG instead of taking it from the Gulf coast for Cameron and a lot of these other facilities from other companies are those, those ones on the Gulf coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, they have to go through the Panama Canal. But if you're right on the Pacific Ocean, you can go to Asian markets, which are growing exponentially. You can go straight to the Asian market right from the Pacific Ocean. You can skip the Panama Canal, you can get there and half the time and you don't have to pay the toll from the Panama Canal.
Speaker 1: 03:40 Now, this huge new plan to add this Cameron plant in Louisiana. Let's talk about the environmental aspects of this energy market. Sempra says, this is quote a major step forward to bringing cleaner, affordable energy to global markets. In what way is this cleaner energy?
Speaker 3: 03:56 Well, the argument that, uh, natural gas reporters make is that if you're going to Asia, China for example, also Indonesia, India, there's uh, that that's a possible l and g a destination as well, that those developing countries use a lot of coal. The thinking is if you're able to send natural gas supply, natural gas to these developing countries, since natural gas burns twice as cleanly as cold does, that you're, it's a, it's a cleaner burning fuel, but the environmentalist come right back and say it's still a fossil fuel.
Speaker 1: 04:31 It's still a fossil fuel in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and it LNG might be a big problem because of methane leaks in the pipelines to, is that right? Okay.
Speaker 3: 04:40 Yeah. All the dia also methane flaring because the natural gas when it's produced in the United States, if you [inaudible] that methane is flared from the, uh, from the plants that produced the natural gas from the LNG standpoint, it's transported by pipeline to the LNG station of the LNG terminal. And then from there they, they do do, I believe they do some flaring at the, uh, at the site, but not nearly as much as they do at the natural gas facilities that produced the natural gas originally
Speaker 1: 05:11 with this major move into LNG export, it gives the appearance at San Diego based Sempra is not really on board with California's effort to cut greenhouse gases and move toward cleaner energy and move away from fossil fuels. Really. Do you expect this new global business might hurt Sempra and its subsidiary Sdg and e when they say they support green energy?
Speaker 3: 05:35 I'm not sure. I mean on the, you could argue that for the very reasons that you made, but that imagine Sempra would come back and say if these countries like China, India, places developing countries are going to use coal, if you give them natural gas as a bridge fuel that is going to be cleaner. Also meet Sempra is a holding company. So they're subsidiaries are natural gas companies. I mean, so in many ways it's not surprising that they're supported LNG and supporting the growth of natural gas. I've been speaking with rob, Nikola USCA. He is a San Diego Union Tribune energy reporter. Rob. Thank you. Thank you.
Speaker 4: 06:15 Hmm.