NextDecade's $15B LNG project hits key permitting milestone
Houston-based NextDecade has obtained three state permits needed for its proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal at the Port of Brownsville.On Friday it received an important federal environmental study that will lay the groundwork for it to receive key federal approvals.
Federal regulators have released a key environmental study of NextDecade's proposed Rio Grande LNG project – an important milestone in permitting for the 27 million metric ton liquefied natural gas terminal in Brownsville, the third of three LNG projects proposed for Rio Grande Valley.
Officials at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissions said Rio Grande LNG, combined with other projects proposed in the area, could cause adverse environmental impacts but that many of those significant impacts could be reduced through a mitigation plan.
Like other projects in Brownsville, federal regulators again expressed concern about how the LNG project would impact habitat for endangered wildcat species, the ocelot and the coastal Gulf Coast jaguarundi. Those conclusions come on top of another report released earlier this week about how the three proposed terminals together – Rio Grande LNG, Annova LNG and Texas LNG – could permanently cut off a wildlife corridor considered critical for the survival of the endangered cats.
The Rio Grande LNG terminal would include six liquefaction plants known as trains, four 180,000 cubic meter storage tanks, multiple storage and refrigeration units, compressor stations, marine loading facilities and truck loading terminals. The terminal would be fed by twin 42-inch pipelines with a total capacity of 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. The Rio Bravo Pipeline project would transport gas about 137 miles from Agua Dulce area to the Brownsville terminal.
The $15 billion project would generate an estimated 6,000 construction jobs and about 5,000 permanent jobs mostly within Cameron County, according to company.
"We appreciate the FERC staff's timely and thorough review of our project," said Matt Schatzman, NextDecade's President and Chief Executive Officer in a statement. "The Final Environmental Impact Statement is a culmination of several years of analysis and cooperation with FERC staff and multiple federal, state, and local agencies and other stakeholders."
NextDecade said it expects to receive final authorization on its project by July 25. It plans to make a final investment decision on the project by the end of the third quarter this year.
The LNG developer has hit several key project milestones in recent months. Earlier this week NextDecade entered an agreement with the Port of Brownsville to deepen nearly half the Brownsville Ship Channel by about 10 feet to ease transportation for its project. It also secured a state permit, signed a 20-year supply deal with Royal Dutch Shell and inked a long-term lease and an electricity deal for the 984-acre site.
But NextDecade and the other two proposed LNG projects in Brownsville face stiff opposition from the local community and environmentalists.
Opponents blasted FERC for attempting to downplay the significance of the cumulative impacts of the project, which would be a major emitter of greenhouse gas.
"For years, South Texans have made it clear that we oppose Rio Grande LNG, the Rio Bravo Pipeline, and the other dangerous, unnecessary fracked gas projects proposed for our community. Our cities have passed anti-LNG resolutions, our school board has rejected a proposed tax cut for the project, and time after time we submit public comments and turn out to public hearings to send a clear message that this project would be all cost for our communities while fossil fuel executives reap all the benefit," said Sierra Club Brownsville Organizer Rebekah Hinojosa.