Soko Islands will be harmed by ExxonMobil-CLP LNG terminal

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      Hi Martin & Charles …

      Would be interested RE your comments on todays INSIGHT comment in the SCMP by Thomas Jefferson. What do you think?

      Tom Bowman

      Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/01/23 21:11


      Hi Tom:

      I think Dr Jefferson is broadly correct re the dolphins (saying LNG terminal won’t have real impact on them, or on finless porpoise): some years ago, I went out on survey boat with him in waters north of Lantau, and judged him a good-excellent scientist. (Around that time, were some over-the-top predictions re the dolphins, such as would not last beyond 1997 or thereabouts; Dr Jefferson’s more level-headed pronouncements proved more accurate.)

      But, I still don’t believe the LNG terminal at the Sokos is justified: will be destructive to a still lovely area, with good marine ecology (not just dolphins, tho they are being used as flagship species).
      As noted above, there are alternatives; Black Point among them – where there has already been considerable env harm, including power station already in place.
      – Can’t really say Dr Jefferson is objective in this regard, ie re merits of LNG terminal itself. I rather felt that his byline should have said something like, “Dr Thomas Jefferson, who has been handsomely paid by ExxonMobil-CLP partnership, which is keen on the Sokos option”.
      (If not paid handsomely, too bad: EIA work for developer of project like this should be well rewarded – which for some can mean that objectivity is lost: indeed, the EIA [not section re dolphins] reportedly has artist’s impressions showing LNG tanks looking prominent at Black Point, yet somehow fuzzier and fainter at the Sokos.
      It’s a fundamental problem with EIAs, really: funded by wannabe developers, so I think can be tendency for Who Pays the Piper, Calls the Tune. At times, can be horrendously skewed in favour of developments. I write this having done a little EIA work; tried for objectivity.)


      Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/01/23 21:25

      Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/01/24 16:03


      Having read the INSIGHT article, I think his last paragraph he wrote was a little desperate..something along the lines of dolphins breathing the same air as we do, and therefore justification for building the LNG Terminal at the Sokos to reduce air pollution.
      There is much more to the Sokos than just dolphins..though as MW said they were the Handover Mascot in 1997 and are Hong Kong’s flagship species.

      What we all need to understand, including Dr. Jefferson is the CUMULATIVE Impacts of all these western HK projects that are slowly taking way dolphin habitat, not just looking at the merits of single project EIAs.
      The airport, Disneyland, Aviation Facility, Lantau Zuhai Bridge, Container Terminal CT10, Logistics Park, LNG Terminal..the list goes on.
      About time this indecisive government started taking these public consultations more seriously and becoming more transparent. CF

      Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/01/24 16:05


        Thanks for the prompt reply and you both confirmed my worst suspicions …. it’s a case of a death of a thousand cuts … RE Charles comments.

        The article was – as you say Martin – informed and reasonable but also verging on, in my opinion, unrealistic in the broader terms re the impact this project would have.

        A right of reply should be taken up.



        Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/01/24 16:06


          As printed in Jan. 24th SCMP (this is the unedited version)

          Whilst WWF’s petition does indeed ask us to urge the government not
          to let the Chinese White Dolphins (aka pink dolphins) become extinct,
          I do not think they- or anyone else- are suggesting that Exxon-CLP’s
          proposed LNG terminal at the Sokos will in itself kill off the
          dolphins. (“Greens exaggerating impact on dolphins, says expert”,
          Jan. 22nd).
          However we do believe that this project would be yet another nail in
          the dolphins’ coffin – as even
          Exxon-CLP hired hand marine biologist Thomas Jefferson admits, it is the
          cumulative impact of all the past and future development in the
          Lantau area that concerns us. It is patronising to say we do not
          understand the mitigation measures. We do – but we also understand the long
          term effects of rampant development and loss of fishing grounds and
          Dr Jefferson also claims (Jan. 23rd) that the 40 km pipeline would have only a short term and relatively minor
          impact on the dolphins – what does this mean? Not too many dead, so it doesn’t matter? And how will this work
          alongside the Airport Authority’s proposal for a facility storing 400,000 cubic metres of oil near Tuen Mun, with another pipeline dredged through the same area, to the fuel facility at Sha Chau?
          Every time an EIA is done in Hong Kong, it is done in a bubble and no
          one – on land or at sea- ever seems to look at the cumulative effect
          of say, an airport, a theme park, a gas terminal, a bridge to Macau,
          more container terminals (the list goes on and on) in the dolphins’
          habitat. Just as with human habitat, the government seems beholden to
          developers and other big businesses, without a thought for those who
          have to live with the consequences of their decisions.
          Of course we all want clean air, of course this would benefit both
          people and dolphins, but, as been stated over and over, there is no
          need to allow Exxon-CLP to to ride roughshod over an area that was
          proposed as a marine park, with cleaner air as a justification. One
          LNG terminal is not going to clear the air over night either. There
          is not even any need for this facility to be built in Hong Kong-
          Black Point might be a slightly preferable location dolphin-wise, but
          the mainland would be better for all of us, consumers included-
          except of course for the energy companies who stand to profit by
          keeping their investment within Hong Kong.

          Janet walker
          Hong Kong Dolphinwatch


          CLP’s partner in this potential environmental crime, ExxonMobil, has been major villain in funding groups befuddling American public over importance of global warming (this month, announced possible changes, so maybe [far] less such funding from now on).

          There are several anti-ExxonMobil websites and web pages.
          Sites include:
          Exxpose Exxon – where you can find plenty of news items, such as titled “Exxon Caught Funding Fake News”
          At top of homepage, says:

          As one of the world’s most profitable companies, ExxonMobil has the power to move the world toward a more sustainable energy future. Instead, ExxonMobil is consistently moving our country backward on energy by blocking efforts to stop global warming, funding front groups that produce junk science and disinformation about global warming, refusing to invest in renewable energy and lobbying to drill in America’s most sensitive areas.

          – hardly seems a company to entrust with future of one of Hong Kong’s finest coastal areas.


          Just seen email saying:

          The planning, construction and cost of an LNG terminal for Teeside UK, was scrapped since LNG tankers now convert the gas on board*
          A terminal at the Soko Islands is thus superseded by advances in technology.
          Storage provision can be made elsewhere.

          (*This was reported in the Nov/Dec, edition of the Energy Institute’s magazine Energy World – citing actions to supply UK’s needs)

          Just googled, quickly.

          From BBC news:

          The Teesside project is unique in Europe because the LNG is warmed up and turned into gas while still onboard Excelerate’s specially-designed tankers, before the gas is pumped directly into Britain’s gas network.

          The company says this avoids the need to build a terminal on land.

          Port welcomes first gas delivery

          More info, especially on the vessel, includes:

          Excelsior will regasify the LNG onboard and pump the natural gas directly into the UK national grid via a special high-pressure manifold connection.

          On arrival at GasPort, LNGRVs will utilise a shore-mounted, high-pressure gas arm to connect the vessel’s midships manifold with the shore pipeline.

          A small aboveground station at the site enables pressure control, metering and nitrogen blending to be carried out.

          Tees set to become second LNG receiving port in UK

          Naturally, we can anticipate some reasons why this just isn’t possible out here.
          CLP/Exxon nearly have their hands on all the extra money they can make via terminal in HK, so not about to let from their grasp just now I think.


          Here’s a letter I sent SCM Post editor on 15 Feb (had reply saying they had two similar letters just in, which were to be published. My letter didn’t appear; just edited it and resent).

          Dear Sir:

          It was interesting to read the article in the Sunday Morning Post magazine on ExxonMobil’s ongoing efforts to obfuscate scientific information on global warming, Recently, these efforts included offers of US$10,000 for scientists willing to emphasise the shortcomings of the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

          Greenpeace International accuses ExxonMobil of a “deliberate misinformation campaign” over the effects of the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill, which occurred when an ExxonMobil tanker ran aground in Alaska in 1989. Though ExxonMobil has sought to play down the impacts, this was one of the the largest manmade environmental disasters to occur at sea.

          We might wonder, then, if ExxonMobil is a fit company to be allowed to damage one of Hong Kong’s finest coastal areas, by building an LNG terminal on the Sokos in partnership with CLP. Already we are seeing ExxonMobil-style disinformation: as noted in a letter from Charles Frew, an advert promoting the terminal showed a fake image, with a surreal scene of 2 Chinese White Dolphins above a coral seabed with a school of Bluestripe Snapper

          More recent adverts show a bucolic farm scene – which surely isn’t anywhere in Hong Kong. There is, too, an implicit threat – as if without the LNG terminal, we won’t have clean air in Hong Kong. Perhaps we are supposed to be scared into saying yes.

          It seems that in the rush to harm the Sokos and boost the profits of CLP and ExxonMobil (which is already among the world’s most profitable companies), only scant attention is being paid to alternatives. For instance, LNG could be supplied from nearby mainland China.

          Intriguingly, too, the UK recently scrapped plans for an LNG terminal at Teesside. Instead, advances in technology allow the LNG to be converted to gas on board vessels. It is then piped into the gas supply, via “a small aboveground station that enables pressure control, metering and nitrogen blending to be carried out”.

          Thus, an LNG terminal in Hong Kong might not only be environmentally harmful. It may also be outmoded before it’s even built.

          Yours faithfully,
          Dr Martin Williams

          The above didn’t appear; I followed with a third letter – below – and edited version of this was published.

          Even though the Soko Islands seem out of sight, out of mind to most Hongkongers, recent letters to the editor indicate continuing concerns regarding Exxon-CLP plans for a liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal on one of the islands.

          ?? wrote that he had seen the islands from a plane, and on the southern side they appeared to have been already ruined. However, iwhile he may have seen the Sokos, the industrial development and quarrying damage he described was on nearby islands just outside Hong Kong. The Sokos remain mostly green and relatively wild and, as the writer’s observations help show, this is unusual among South China islands.

          In “Council’s scope limited”, letter writer John Schofield noted that the Advisory Council on the Environment had not considered all issues related to the terminal. A follow-up letter recommended he read the minutes of a recent meeting of ACE.

          I have read those minutes, and noted that ACE was unable to discuss, “Issues falling outside the remit of the EIA Ordinance, including the need and justifications for the project, alternative sources of supply outside Hong Kong and land use interface” – so its scope was indeed limited.

          It seems that in the haste to harm the Sokos and boost the profits of CLP and ExxonMobil (already among the world’s most profitable companies), only scant attention is being paid to alternatives. For instance, LNG could be supplied from nearby mainland China.

          Intriguingly, too, the UK recently scrapped plans for an LNG terminal at Teesside. Instead, advances in technology allow the LNG to be converted to gas on board vessels. It is then piped into the gas supply, via “a small aboveground station that enables pressure control, metering and nitrogen blending to be carried out”.

          Thus, an LNG terminal in Hong Kong might not only be environmentally harmful. It may also be outmoded before it’s even built.

          Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/04/03 18:41


          After piffling public debate (how much did you see re the issues?), and very fast process, govt has given CLP – ExxonMobil green light for harming the Sokos and surrounding waters.

          Govt has made requirement re environment, however: CLP – ExxonMobil need to have a committee to oversee environmental aspects. That should make them tremble in the boardrooms – I don’t think (can imagine them laughing now, and getting ready for the inflows of money).

          Bah! :sick:


          Though it seems inevitable that CLP-Exxon will soon set about harming the Soko Islands, the Living Islands Movement has released a position paper, arguing that Hong Kong doesn’t need an LNG terminal (scroll well down for Chinese version):

          LNG Receiving Terminal: An Unnecessary Scheme

          The Living Islands Movement


          1. Will CLP¡¦s proposed Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal help bring us Blue Skies?

          NO, because LNG fuels the smaller part of CLP’s generating capacity, CLP will still have up to 60% of its capacity burning Coal as before. If all generation were to be switched to gas, it would help – but this is not being proposed nor is it feasible.

          2. So what could bring us Blue Skies then?

          Rapid installation of the long-delayed Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) equipment will cut 95% of the pollution from coal burning.

          3. Where will Hong Kong get the gas needed for the generating capacity that can use it?

          New gas supplies are becoming available from LNG terminals nearby in South China. HK Electric is already hooked up to one of these!
          The existing supplier to CLP, CNOOC, states that it can extend the life of the Yacheng gas field, with some new investment.

          4. So who would gain from this unnecessary scheme?

          CLP and its partner, ExxonMobil, which owns 60% of the generating plant, are the only beneficiaries.
          They get to extend their monopolies in electricity generation and distribution to include the sole control of importation and processing of LNG. The EU Competition Commission has been particularly scathing about the anti-competition activities of vertically integrated energy companies and called for their unbundling;
          They get to add HK$8.0 billion or more to their asset base, on which they obtain guaranteed, risk-free profits paid for by Hong Kong consumers under the Scheme of Control.

          5. And who would be the losers?

          Hong Kong Consumers will lose, because they would have to pay for it through the Scheme of Control.
          Hong Kong would also pay heavily in terms of damage to its Natural Heritage if an intrusive industrial plant is built in scenic South Lantau.
          LNG Receiving Terminal: An Unnecessary Scheme

          The Castle Peak Company (CAPCo), owned by ExxonMobil and CLP (60/40), proposes to build a LNG receiving terminal in Hong Kong. They have found that the only site suitable for this in Hong Kong is on the Soko islands off Lantau.

          This paper draws from the facts that are publicly available and that concludes the only beneficiary will be ExxonMobil. The effects on Hong Kong will be to destroy a part of our dwindling natural heritage and a likely increase in electricity prices. The project has nothing to do with ‘bringing blue skies’.

          CAPCo¡¦s case is unfounded

          – LNG supplies from China will be coming on line in a time frame comparable to that of building a terminal. Hong Kong Electric has already laid a 93 km pipeline to Guangdong and recently started to use it. No reason has been given for not following this example;
          – the need for a replacement gas supply for Black Point Power Station (BPPS) is unproven. The owners of the Yacheng field which currently supplies BPPS, CNOOC, advise that the field’s life can be extended by investing in new wells;
          – additional generation is not needed because demand-side growth within Hong Kong is almost non-existent and likely to fall;
          – an LNG facility will not significantly improve air quality, nor help CAPCo reach proposed new air quality targets, as it is impossible to easily dispense with coal that currently accounts for 60% of CAPCo¡¦s generating capacity in Hong Kong;
          – By far the greater effect on pollution will be the installation of FGD (Flue Gas Desulphurization) plant which is starting soon and will come into use during 2009 – 2011. This will reduce the pollution from coal burning to 5% of the current level. The delay in installing the FGD plant by CAPCo has not been explained;
          – The ¡§LNG for Blue Skies¡¨ advertisements by CLP appear to be intended only to mislead both the public and the government;
          – CAPCo can meet the proposed new 2010 emission standards by a combination of:
          £U accelerating the FGD installation at Castle Peak coal fired station currently in progress;
          £U reducing external sales to China;
          £U purchasing power from China;
          £U assisting to curb the demand side (eg, Australia is to ban incandescent lamps).

          Alternate LNG supplies for BPPS

          The options for supply of gas to BPPS include:-
          – extending the life of the existing supply from Yacheng. The field owners CNOOC advise that this is readily achievable. This is the simplest option and capitalizes on existing infrastructure.
          – obtaining supply from the Sinopec Zhuhai Receiving Terminal. This is being sited on an island off Zhuhai, a similar distance to BPPS as the Sokos. Sinopec say that they can build the capacity by 2012, and have deliberately sited the terminal to facilitate supply to BPPS by submarine pipeline.
          – obtaining supply from the Shenzhen Receiving Terminal at Dapeng near Mirs Bay. Phase 1 of the terminal has been commissioned, and supplies inter alia, unit 9 at Hong Kong Electric¡¦s power station at Lamma. Phase 2 at Dapeng which has yet to commence, has substantial planned capacity, and pipelines already in hand will bring the gas to Shekou, very close to BPPS from whence a short submarine pipeline could reach BPPS.

          Economics and Governance

          The following situations will be created if the project goes ahead:
          – Extension of CAPCo’s existing generation and distribution monopolies into the supply of LNG. The EU Competition Commission has been very scathing about the anti-competition activities of vertically integrated energy companies and called for their unbundling;
          – an uneven playing field in which CAPCo is, literally, given a potentially lucrative Hong Kong terminal without due process involving open competition;
          – an unbreakable monopoly because acceptance of CAPCo’s Environmental Impact Assessment means that the last remaining place to build a terminal – Soko islands – will have been taken;
          – CAPCo¡¦s use of the Scheme of Control (SoC) to obtain generous returns on fixed assets within HK, encourages and rewards massive capital investment ($8 Billion for the Sokos terminal) and discourages the use of cost-effective off-shore options;
          – the further destruction of HK’s natural heritage for the benefit of a foreign owned company;
          – whilst no ‘business plan’ has been shown in public, the information that is available strongly suggests that the project will result in electricity prices that are higher than all the alternatives.

          The Sokos (claimed to be tbe only place to build it):

          – are a group of relatively unspoiled islands off highly scenic South Lantau;
          – are intended, in the government public debated 2001 plans, to be a marine park that would, notably, include HK’s signature Pink Dolphin;
          – have a very high commercial fishing value;
          – have a high natural heritage value and marine recreational value.
          – are close to other islands in China’s waters that are already seriously spoiled (see Google Earth at 22¢X07’North; 113¢X53’East). In ‘one country’, the use of one of these should not be insuperable. Exxon/CLP have not pursued this idea seriously, presumably because it would not be eligible for subsidy by Hong Kong consumers under the Scheme of Control.


          £U Pollution levels will be drastically reduced by the introduction of FGD. Increasing the minority generation that uses gas will not make a marked difference. Only a complete long-term move away from coal will significantly reduce levels below those achieved with FGD.
          £U Referring to the supply of LNG that is needed, a LNG receiving terminal in Hong Kong is not necessary – LNG will be available from China following the example set by HK Electric;
          £U it must be concluded, therefore, that the purpose of such a terminal is part of the global growth of the sale of LNG by ExxonMobil
          £U Hong Kong is chosen because of the favourable terms granted to CAPCo under the SoC wich, notably, will oblige CLP consumers to pay for the HK$8Bn terminal;
          £U it has nothing, whatever, to do with ‘blue skies’;
          £U it will create a vertically integrated power monopoly that can never be broken in the future;
          £U the scheme is all the more reprehensible because it will destroy part of our natural heritage.

          The Way ahead

          – CAPCo should be refused a HK terminal
          – CAPCo will be then obliged to seek alternatives which may include:-
          £U negotiating with CNOOC for extended gas supplies from Yacheng;
          £U securing gas supplies from Sinopec¡¦s Zhuhai Terminal;
          £U securing gas supplies from Shenzhen¡¦s Dapeng Terminal.
          – should there be, in actual practice, (this is highly debatable) a transitional period of reduced gas supply from Yacheng, the resulting reduction in generation capacity at BPPS might be accommodated by reducing generation demand through:-
          £U temporarily suspending sales to China (now 18% of CAPCo¡¦s output);
          £U temporarily purchasing power from China (China Power International Development stands ready to deliver);
          £U demand-side savings initiatives.
          – In any case, introduction of FGD greatly reduces the urgency for a transition to more LNG.

          Living Islands Movement May 2007




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          Frequently shrouded by a polluted haze, two small islands on the edge of Hong Kong¡¦s territorial waters are at the epicentre of an unusual environmental debate.

          At issue is the ecological cost Hong Kong is prepared to pay to clean up its filthy air.

          Hong Kong environmentalists object to a project they believe would spoil an ecologically valuable area. The Sokos¡¦ surrounding waters are rich in marine life and a breeding ground for both rare pink dolphins and finless porpoises ¡V the only two marine mammals that manage to tolerate Hong Kong¡¦s dirty and heavily trafficked waterways.

          ¡§Having the [LNG] terminal and burning more gas instead of coal will improve Hong Kong¡¦s air pollution. But the central question is whether they need to step into this ecologically sensitive area,¡¨ says Hung Wing-tat, director of green group Conservancy Association.

          The terminal, CLP also argues, will be built on already scarred land: the abandoned concrete platform where the detention centre that housed thousands of Vietnamese boat people once stood.

          Conservationists, however, are not convinced. ¡§The effect on Hong Kong will be to destroy a part of our dwindling ecological heritage,¡¨ says the Living Islands Movement, a lobby group that argues CLP should instead source its gas from terminals across the border in Guangdong.

          Making the project even more controversial is the need to lay a 38km underwater pipeline linking the terminal to CLP and ExxonMobil¡¦s 2,500MW Black Point power plant. Environmentalists contend the necessary dredging work will threaten the area¡¦s dolphins and porpoises, which breed each autumn and spring respectively.

          ¡§The pipes are at absolutely the worst place they could be for the dolphins,¡¨ says Janet Walker, a senior guide at Hong Kong DolphinWatch, which organises nature tours.

          CLP¡¦s environmental permit bans dredging during the breeding seasons. Work would also have to halt temporarily every time a pink dolphin or porpoise was spied within 250m of a dredger, and the company has promised to establish two marine parks ¡V a plan the government proposed in 2002 but never implemented.

          Gas terminal threatens HK dolphins


            ahah, you wrote a good one.

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