A new LNG terminal off the coast of Massachusetts is expected to get its first shipment of natural gas by the end of this month. The company is working with scientists in an effort to protect whales who are in the path of LNG tankers.
When the federal government issued a license to Excelerate Energy to build an underwater LNG port 13 miles off the shore of Massachusetts it required the company to find a way for its ships to avoid colliding with right whales. There are only about 350 of these endangered whales in the North Atlantic.
Excelerate is funding Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Cornell University to operate underwater microphones attached to ten buoys that house computers. The computers determine if the sounds recorded by the microphones are similar to the call of the right whale. If thereâ€™s a match the computer sends the data to Cornell. There, bioengineer Christopher Clark and his colleagues take a good listen.
â€œWe are evaluating every one of those possible detections and deciding whether it is indeed a right whale call.â€
If it is, the scientists will alert the shipâ€™s captain. The ship will slow to ten knots and do what it can to safely avoid the whales. Clark says he was surprised this year by how frequently his group has detected whales.â€
â€œOh my gosh. We have had whales through February, March, April and now into may we have whales off of Boston in the shipping Lane all the time. Thatâ€™s a new discovery.â€
Excelerate Energy is paying $16.5 million for the first five years of whale detection and about $3 million for every additional year the LNG terminal is in operation.