It is more than two years now since the US Department of Transportation authorized bulk movement of liquified natural gas (LNG) by rail.
At the time of the ruling, it appeared to open the way to another avenue of growth and investment for LNG into areas where pipeline investments do not stack up.
But that June 2020 ruling has not played out conventionally at all. So far it has not enabled LNG industry players and the railroads to assess the opportunity with full confidence and begin to plan and invest. Instead, the federal green light has prompted a cascade of activity and debate across the country about the safety or otherwise of LNG by rail as a viable transport option for LNG, to be set alongside LNG pipelines and deliveries made by LNG tanker-trucks and LNG marine vessels.
This public and at times charged debate culminated, in November 2021, in the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) putting in place a suspension of the original ruling, pending further research into the risks involved. This suspension means that what was known as the LNG by Rail final rule when it was published is not so far living up to the name.
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