Rio Grande LNG Terminal

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.

Rio Grande LNG Terminal is a proposed LNG export terminal in Cameron County, Texas, United States.


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Project Details

  • Owner: NextDecade, LLC
  • Parent: Portfolio LNG Company
  • Location: Brownsville, Texas, United States
  • Coordinates: 25.950835, -97.410844 (approximate)
  • Capacity: 27 million metric tons per year (mtpa)[1]
  • Status: Proposed
  • Type: Export
  • Trains: 5[2]
  • Start Year: 2023

Note: mtpa = million tonnes per year; bcfd = billion cubic feet per day


Rio Grande LNG Terminal is a proposed LNG export terminal in Cameron County, Texas, United States. It will have six production trains.[3] The export terminal would supply natural gas to the Rio Bravo pipeline, a proposed pipeline project. In June of 2015, NextDecade,LLC announced that they had raised an additional $85 million for the Rio Grande LNG project, securing NextDecade's access to commence construction of the project upon permitting.[4] In May of 2016, NextDecade filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to site, construct, and operate both the LNG terminal and the Rio Grande Pipeline. FERC's federal authorization decision deadline is set for July 25, 2019.[5]

In May of 2019, NextDecade awarded contracts worth nearly $9.6B to engineering firm Bechtel for engineering, procurement and construction services to build the first phase of the proposed Rio Grande liquefied natural gas export terminal on the Texas Gulf coast. Bechtel says three production units capable of producing up to 17.6M mt/year of LNG, two storage tanks and two marine berths will be in operation by 2023, if the project secures a federal permit and reaches a positive final investment decision. The contracts are the latest step forward for NEXT, which recently won a 20-year LNG supply contract with Royal Dutch Shell and pledged to deepen nearly half of the Brownsville Ship Channel to 52 ft.[6]

In December of 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a formal approval of the project. The Commission also approved, with conditions, the Texas LNG Terminal, the Rio Bravo Gas Pipeline, 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 three 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.[7] In February 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy issued approvals for the three terminals to ship LNG to nations that aren't part of free trade agreements, such as Japan, South Korea and India.[8]

In April 2020, the energy and shipping brokerage Poten & Partners disclosed that the final investment decision (FID) for the terminal had been delayed beyond the original FID timing of 2020 to 2021. It cited COVID-19, plunging demand and the crash in oil prices as the reasons for the delay. [9]

In May 2020, NextDecade announced that they would be pushing back the project's final investment decision (FID), citing the coronavirus pandemic lowering demand and prices for liquefied natural gas.[10]

In July 2020, NextDecade announced that instead of building six liquefaction trains the project will proceed with five liquefaction trains. The company said that this will cut costs by reducing construction time and lower expected carbon emissions.[2]


Following the 2019 FERC approval, opponents filed new lawsuits against the three proposed LNG terminals and one proposed gas pipeline in Brownsville, Texas, the Annova LNG Brownsville Terminal, the Rio Grande LNG Terminal, the Texas LNG Terminal, and the Rio Bravo Gas Pipeline. The three suits were filed by local residents, the city of Port Isabel and the Sierra Club. Local shrimpers and fishermen filed a suit against Rio Grande LNG and the Rio Bravo Pipeline in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval of a water permit for the plant and pipeline. The plaintiffs argue that the Corps failed to avoid or mitigate negative impacts to wetlands.[11]

In another filing, the city of Port Isabel, the Sierra Club and two grassroots organizations filed two lawsuits challenging the FERC’s approval of the Annova LNG and Texas LNG projects. The suits were filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit in Washington, D.C. The suits are asking that the federal permits be reviewed and overturned by a federal judge. The suits argue that FERC’s socioeconomic and environmental justice studies were flawed, as was FERC’s ruling that the LNG facilities are in the public interest. Those groups have a similar lawsuit filed against FERC’s approval of the Rio Grande LNG and Rio Bravo Pipeline. LNG opponents contend that the LNG facilities in Brownsville would create safety and environmental concerns, impact local fishermen, destroy wetlands, threaten wildlife, and hurt tourism. It would also create air pollution problems in the Rio Grande Valley, an impoverished area largely home to traditionally marginalized communities, disproportionately impacting the Latino community, a potential violation of federal law. Port Isabel, a Brownsville neighbor, is opposed to the LNG project and is also party in a separate lawsuit that is pending in Texas courts.[11]

In April 2020, two environmental groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) over their approval of the Annova LNG Brownsville Terminal. The Sierra Club and Defenders for Wildlife sued the FWS in 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, asking the court to review whether the agency violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when deciding that the planned construction would not threaten the survival of the medium-sized wildcat, thought to number only about 60 specimens in the United States.[12] A similar suit has been brought against the Rio Grande LNG Terminal.[13]

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