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Contentious plan to remake N.J. dynamite plant into shale-gas export terminal is approved

DRBC approval allows Delaware River Partners to build a new wharf at the former DuPont Repauno Works. But it will need to obtain federal permits if it hopes to export LNG.

The Repauno site in Gloucester County, where Delaware River Partners LLC has proposed to build a new wharf in the area shown in the foreground. (Office of the Attorney General/Tim Larsen)
The Repauno site in Gloucester County, where Delaware River Partners LLC has proposed to build a new wharf in the area shown in the foreground. (Office of the Attorney General/Tim Larsen)Read morehandout

The Delaware River Basin Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to build a $96 million 1,600-foot-long pier to load tankers at the former DuPont Repauno Works in New Jersey, where an investment firm proposes to export large volumes of liquid fuels produced from fracking Pennsylvania shale gas wells.

The commission rejected pleas from environmentalists to delay the project to study the impact of the terminal, which activists fear will be used primarily as an export terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) brought in by road and rail to the port in Greenwich Township. DuPont shut down its Repauno operations about 20 years ago.

The commission said its review was confined to the impact of building the wharf and of dredging the Delaware River to 43 feet deep to connect with the main channel.

The wharf would be the second new dock built on the site, where the property’s owners, Delaware River Partners LLC, say LNG is only one of several commodities that may be shipped, including other fuels, automobiles, and bulk cargo. An LNG shipper would be required to obtain a U.S. Energy Department permit to export LNG.

A coalition of climate activists opposed to new fossil-fuel infrastructure projects raised alarms about the project after connecting the dots between the port expansion and a proposal by an affiliated company to produce LNG at a plant in northern Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gaslands.

Local elected officials support the terminal, saying it’s an economic development project that will revive a dormant industrial site with taxable improvements and new jobs.

Opponents could challenge the commission’s approval, as well as try to block other permits Delaware River Partners will need to develop the site, including state environmental approvals, Coast Guard permits, and Energy Department permits if LNG is exported.

Delaware River Partners LLC, in securities filings, has suggested that its initial interest is primary to develop the Repauno port to export propane and butane from Marcellus producers to European petrochemical manufacturers. The site has a 186,000-barrel underground storage tavern suitable for liquid fuel like propane, but not LNG.

Delaware River Partners is owned by a company that is controlled and managed by Fortress Investment Group, a New York hedge fund affiliated with New Fortress Energy. New Fortress has proposed building a 3.6-million-gallon-per-day natural gas liquefaction plant in Bradford County, Pa., and in securities filings, says it plans to export the LNG it produces to locations in the Caribbean through an unnamed Delaware River port.

New Fortress is run by Wesley R. Edens, a 57-year-old billionaire investment banker and cofounder of the Fortress Investment Group. He is also co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Aston Villa Football Club in England.

LNG is produced by super-cooling natural gas until it becomes a liquid, and it is used primarily to store gas in compact liquid form or to ship it to remote customers. Many utilities store LNG to supply customers during peak-demand periods. Philadelphia Gas Works produces and stores LNG in Port Richmond, and Peco Energy operates a plant in West Conshohocken.