The U.S. Coast Guard has issued a letter declaring Virgin Island waterways suitable for the transportation of liquid petroleum gas, bringing closer to completion the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s conversion of some of its generating capacity from fuel oil to lower-cost gas.
The letter was issued by Capt. Robert Warren, the Coast Guard’s captain of the port for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, who recently toured the St. Croix LPG loading facility.
On Thursday, Warren inspected the marine safety and security work nearing completion to facilitate the delivery of LPG – or propane – by ship to WAPA’s power plant in Estate Richmond on St. Croix. He was accompanied by WAPA Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Hugo Hodge Jr. and the project’s management team.
“Capt. Warren saw first-hand the work done dockside to include the installation of a marine loading arm through which LPG fuel will be delivered, the fendering and turning dolphins, fire suppression equipment, redundant detection and monitoring mechanisms as well as an extensive security surveillance system throughout the facility,” Hodge said.
The tour included stops at the mounds that completely encase eight fuel storage tanks and the fully automated control rooms that will be staffed around the clock by operators who are all Virgin Islanders. The tour also included a stop at the vaporizers units that will convert the liquid propane to a gas where the fuel will enter the turbines for combustion.
The LPG site sits adjacent to the Richmond power plant.
Warren’s letter was a key step in approval of WAPA’s project.
“The letter conveys the Coast Guard’s recommendation on the suitability of waterways for LPG marine traffic as it relates to safety and security,” Hodge explained.
Warren wrote that after reviewing WAPA’s application and completing an evaluation of the waterways, “I recommend that the waterways … be considered suitable for LPG marine traffic.”
Warren also said the Coast Guard is committed to overseeing all safety and security requirements to safeguard the public health, welfare, critical marine infrastructure and the marine environment.
“Protecting the U.S. Virgin Islands’ maritime traffic and navigable waterways is a top priority,” Warren said after completing his tour. “As the development of the LPG site moves forward, the Coast Guard will continue to closely monitor, assess and inspect all the operations, safety mechanisms and systems that have been established on the landside, along the waterways, and at the fuel docking facility for compliance to conduct safe LPG transfer operations.”
WAPA’s contractor on the LPG project, VITOL Corp., is completing final testing of various components of the system that include quality assurance checks of pipes and valve systems on St. Croix. On St. Thomas, land-based work continues to progress and WAPA anticipates completion around Dec. 31.
WAPA is awaiting a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will enable all marine work to be carried out on St. Thomas. The issuance of the permit by the Army Corps will determine the timeline for all work to be completed on the St. Thomas LPG site, which sits in the current power plant’s footprint, the WAPA news release said.
The authority tapped various external resources including the Office of the Governor and the V.I. Congressional delegate for their assistance in having the permitting agency give a higher priority in the final review and issuance of the permit.