A proposed liquefied natural gas export facility is moving forward at the Port of Brownsville, Tx.
Driving the project is Houston headquartered NextDecade Corporation, which announced in July that it had made a final investment decision to construct the first three of five liquefaction trains at the company’s Rio Grande LNG terminal.
According to NextDecade, the $18.4 billion project financing for Phase 1 “underscores the critical role that LNG and natural gas will continue to play in the global energy transition.”
At full scale, Rio Grande LNG is expected to produce 27 million tonnes per annum with Phase 1 having the nameplate liquefaction capacity of 17.6 million tons per year (MTPA).
Once the terminal, located near the border with Mexico, begins operations in 2027, four LNG vessels per week are expected to arrive with additional vessel calls expected as production ramps up.
The typical LNG vessel calling at the facility will measure about 980 feet long with a beam of 150 feet, and a draft is 39 feet, according to materials produced by the company.
Vessels approaching the terminal from the Gulf of Mexico will transit the Brownsville Ship Channel at six-to-seven knots. When they are about one and a half miles outside the entrance to the Channel, they will be met and boarded by two members of the Brazos Santiago Pilots.
Capt. Jonathan Willett, Brazos Santiago Pilots’ presiding officer, said the challenges faced when guiding a ship into Brownsville include a strong current and wind. The channel is narrow, but much-needed dredging is expected before the NextDecade facility becomes operational.
Currently, the pilots are utilizing simulators to train for the LNG vessels, which Willett said, helps in deciding what modifications are needed to improve the channel itself and upgrading the plans for the planned facility accordingly. Two tugs will escort the vessels as they navigate the channel, with an additional pair available to assist as they approach the berth, said Willett.
“This is an important measure that adds a big layer of safety while transiting the channel,” he said. “If you have an engine failure you still have the tugs there to help you safely maneuver the vessel. The biggest thing that we are concerned with is the safety of the channel and of the vessels that transit our waterway.”
NextDecade has long-term binding sale and purchase agreements with several firms including TotalEnergies, Shell NA LNG LLC, ENN LNG Pte Ltd, Engie S.A., and ExxonMobil LNG Asia Pacific.
Patrick Pouyanne, chair and CEO of TotalEnergies, said the Brownsville project provides access to competitive LNG due to low production costs.
“LNG from this first phase will boost TotalEnergies U.S. LNG export capacity to over 15 MTPA by 2030, and thus our ability to contribute to European gas security, and to provide customers in Asia with an alternative form of energy that is half as emissive as coal,” he said.
Eduardo A. Campirano, the Port of Brownsville’s director and CEO, said the LNG facility will be a game changer for his community.
“Its impact will be enormous, significantly benefiting the energy industry of Texas. This is a testament to our commitment in advancing the economic interests of our community for greater opportunities and a better quality of life.”
Situated on a 984-acre site on the banks of a deepwater channel, construction of the facility is expected to initially employ about 300 people once operations begin and generate more than 5,000 jobs in the region.
Earlier this year, plans for a second LNG export terminal in Galveston Bay were shelved after an evaluation of the potential site determined that proposed facility site was unsuitable for the development of an LNG facility and its related infrastructure.
NextDecade management said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had advised them that a portion of the proposed Galveston Bay LNG site was under “Federal Navigation Servitude” and that approval for the project would have to come via an act of Congress.
“While it is unfortunate that the Galveston Bay LNG site is not viable for large-scale infrastructure development, this determination only further enhances the value of – and the need for – NextDecade’s world-class Rio Grande LNG project in the Port of Brownsville,” the company stated at the time.