Rio Bravo Gas Pipeline
|This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.|
Rio Bravo Gas Pipeline is a proposed natural gas pipeline.
The pipeline would run from near Kingsville, Texas, to the proposed Rio Grande LNG facility at Port of Brownsville, Texas.
- Operator: Rio Bravo Pipeline Company, LLC
- Parent Company: Enbridge
- Proposed capacity: 4500 Million cubic feet per day
- Length: 137 miles / 220 km
- Status: Proposed
- Start Year: 2023
- Estimated Cost: US$2 billion
The Rio Bravo Gas Pipeline would by operated by Rio Bravo Pipeline Company, LLC, a subsidiary of NextDecade. In May 2016 NextDecade applied to FERC to build the pipeline and the Rio Grande LNG facility. NextDecade announced its intention to begin construction in 2017 and put the pipeline into operation in Q4 of 2020. As of October 2017 this application was listed as pending by FERC.
In April of 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the pipeline.
In December of 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a formal approval of the project. The Commission also approved, with conditions, the Rio Grande LNG Terminal, the Texas LNG Terminal, and the Annova LNG Brownsville Terminal, bringing the total number of FERC-approved project in 2019 to eleven. The Rio Grande LNG Terminal and the associated Rio Bravo Gas Pipeline will export 27 million metric tons of natural gas per year. All four LNG project sponsors have applications pending before the U.S. Department of Energy seeking authorization to export gas to countries without Free Trade Agreements with the United States.
In February of 2020, Enbridge entered into a deal to buy the Rio Bravo Pipeline project from Houston liquefied natural gas company NextDecade in a US$25 million deal. Under the agreement, Enbridge will oversee construction and operation of the proposed 137-mile natural gas pipeline project. The deal expands Enbridge's presence at the Port of Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley. The company placed its US$1.5 billion Valley Crossing Pipeline into operation last year and has since started moving natural gas from the Agua Dulce hub south of the border to Mexico. Enbridge also bought a 10.5 percent stake in the Annova LNG Brownsville Terminal, a competing export terminal also proposed to be built at the Port of Brownsville.
As of January 2020, the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) reported that the pipeline's new expected start date will be sometime in 2023.
The pipeline is opposed by landowners, indigenous tribes, environmental groups, and others in affected communities. The Lower Rio Grande Valley chapter of the Sierra Club is opposed to the pipeline on several grounds:
"Once built, expect more: In the Rio Bravo General Project Description, Resource Report 1 p.63, they state “growing demand in the region, including demand by the [Rio Grande LNG] Project, is likely to stimulate pipeline system enhancements (e.g., looping, additional compression, installation of larger pipelines) to further increase the throughput capacity of the relevant connecting pipelines or other pipelines that may provide competing transportation for shippers currently using the pipelines to which RB Pipeline will connect.” In addition, once a pipeline is built, other pipelines often locate near that ROW. Additional pipeline proposals include pipelines for Texas LNG, Annova LNG, and other pipelines that will cross the border to feed gas to Mexico.
"Forcing the pipes through private land using eminent domain: Landowners who refuse to allow the pipeline through their property for a sum of money could have their land seized by eminent domain. The Rio Bravo Pipeline alone will impact over 150 landowners in Cameron, Willacy, Kenedy, Kleberg, and Jim Wells Counties. If the other pipelines are built along different routes, they could affect many more families. If the companies decide to co-locate the pipelines along the same route, these people could have four pipeline pumping as much as 9 billion cubic feet per day of gas on their property, in some cases only yards away from their homes.
"Big natural gas transmission pipelines could mean big risks: All natural gas pipelines are subject to explosions and leaks. A 42-inch diameter high-pressure gas line could have a blast radius of over half a mile. If the Rio Bravo and Valley Crossing Pipelines parallels Highway 48, that means that the public highway itself and all port businesses would be in the impact zone, as would the sensitive natural areas of San Martin Lake, South Bay and the Bahia Grande. If the proposed LNG export terminals are built, two of them, Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG would be completely within the half-mile impact zone of the Valley Crossing Pipeline. Both of these facilities transport, store, and handle flammable and explosive chemicals such as propane, ethane, and butane, in addition to vast quantities of LNG. A pipeline rupture alongside the plants would increase the risk of subsequent and, potentially even more devastating, explosions. If the Valley Crossing Pipeline is co-located with the double 42-inch diameter Rio Bravo Pipeline, any blast could trigger multiple line ruptures and an almost unthinkable catastrophe.
"Ineffective pipeline safety and risky conditions: Large transmission pipeline accidents do occur. Pipeline failures can result from a number of reasons including external damage, bad welds, or damage during construction or installation. Corrosion is a major cause of pipeline incidents, and the soils in our area are highly corrosive. Texas LNG’s own report noted that they would have to consult a corrosion engineer because steel, metal and concrete elements in contact with the soil would be subject to degradation. Pipeline failures are a common occurrence with Texas experiencing pipeline failures more than any other state."
In May 2017 Sierra Club organizer Bekah Hinojosa traveled to Paris with Juan Mancias, chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas to meet with representatives of BNP bank, which is financing the Rio Grande LNG facility, and representatives of Crédit Agricole, which finances other fracking-related projects. “I’m here to tell the banks the history of Texas and make sure that their due diligence is better," Mancias said. "It’s one thing to talk to the companies, it’s another to also get the input from the people that live there. Just because the people from the bank will never go there doesn’t mean we don’t exist and it’s not affecting us.”
Articles and resources
- Rio Bravo Gas Pipeline, Hydrocarbons-Technology, accessed January 2018
- Sergio Chapa, "Enbridge to buy Rio Bravo Pipeline project from LNG developer NextDecade" Houston Chronicle, February 14, 2020
- Natural Gas Data, Pipeline Projects Energy Information Agency, July 21, 2020
- Rio Grande LNG, LLC, Rio Bravo Pipeline Company, LLC; Notice of Application Federal Register, November 2018
- NextDecade lets contract, snags investor for Rio Grande LNG project, Oil & Gas Journal, May 2, 2017
- NextDecade seeks FERC approval for Rio Grande LNG project in Texas, US, Hydrocarbons Technology, May 5, 2016
- 'LNG company files for FERC approval; opposition responds The Brownsville Herald, May 6, 2016
- CP 16-455, FERC, Oct. 31, 2017
- NextDecade’s Rio Grande LNG Receives Final Environmental Impact Statement from FERC, Business Wire, April 26, 2019
- FERC Approves Four LNG Export Projects Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, November 21, 2019
- Rio Bravo Pipeline Fact Sheet, Sierra Club, Lower Rio Grande Valley Chapter, accessed January 2018
- I Followed LNG’s Financial Backers All The Way to Paris, France, Sierra Club of Texas Blog, May 31, 2017