The process is amazing, really.
When natural gas gets cooled to -260 degrees Fahrenheit – colder than the average temperature on Jupiter – it turns to liquid. Then you can put it on a boat and ship it anywhere in the world.
Sempra Energy’s liquefied natural gas plant in Baja California, Mexico, is the only place on the West Coast of North America that can import the fuel. Ships dock at a large, T-shaped jetty that juts into the Pacific Ocean. The liquid gas gets sent into two large storage tanks that can hold enough to fill 128 Olympic-sized swimming pools. When needed, the gas gets heated and piped to homes and businesses in northwestern Mexico.
At one point during the plant’s construction in the mid-2000s, observers believed the company could corner the market on natural gas on the West Coast. A decade ago, a Sempra executive giddily predicted the plant could provide as much as two-thirds of Southern California’s natural gas.
But the plant is hardly the cash cow everyone expected.
The plant is set up to handle a boatful of gas every three days. But a ship only comes a half-dozen times a year, bearing liquefied natural gas from Indonesia. That means the plant is taking in about 5 percent of its capacity.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
A update here: Sempra is formally partnering with Mexican state energy giant PEMEX to explore turning the Baja California plant into an export terminal: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-19/pemex-ienova-sign-mou-on-mexico-lng-liquification-plant