Brownsville eyed for LNG export plant

A Woodlands-based liquefied natural gas company has asked the federal government for permission to build an export plant in Brownsville, joining a growing group of companies hoping to capitalize on a flood of cheap natural gas.

The project by NextDecade is under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, one of the first steps required before construction can begin, the company announced Monday.

“Not only is this an important milestone, but it also signals the beginning of a crucial process that will lead to the best possible project,” Kathleen Eisbrenner, founder and CEO of NextDecade said in a statement.

The privately-owned NextDecade has proposed building six liquefaction trains capable of producing 27 million tons of supercooled gas per year on a 1,000-acre site along the Brownsville Ship Channel.

Plans call for dividing the Rio Grande LNG project in phases, with the first phase expecting to cost about $8 billion. The company intends to announce its final investment decision once the project has been fully cleared by federal and state regulators, likely by 2017, NextDecade said in its announcement Monday.

If approved, the plant could generate 200 to 250 permanent jobs and 5,000 construction jobs, the company said. The proposal also includes plans for a 129-mile pipeline that will supply the plant with natural gas from a market hub in Agua Dulce in South Texas.

NextDecade selected the Brownsville site for its plant because of its close proximity to abundant supplies of natural gas in the nearby Eagle Ford Shale and the easy access to the Gulf of Mexico, the company said.

“Since first visiting the Port of Brownsville in 2013, we have been working tirelessly to make this project a reality,” Eisbrenner said in a statement. “Brownsville is a wonderful location for our facility … The Rio Grande Valley presents a fantastic opportunity for our project.”

Rio Grande LNG is one of two liquefaction projects proposed by NextDecade. The company last year leased 185 acres on Pelican Island just north of Galveston with plans to build a small export plant capable of producing about 6 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year.