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

Trains 1-5

  • Owner: NextDecade, LLC
  • Location: Brownsville, Texas, United States
  • Coordinates: 25.950835, -97.410844 (approximate)
  • Capacity: 27 mtpa (5.4 mtpa per train)[1]
  • Status: Proposed, Pre-FID[2][1]
  • Type: Export[2]
  • Trains: 5[1][3]
  • Start Year: 2023

Train 6

  • Owner: NextDecade, LLC
  • Location: Brownsville, Texas, United States
  • Coordinates: 25.950835, -97.410844 (approximate)
  • Type: Export[4]
  • Trains: 1[4]
  • Capacity: 4.5 mtpa[4]
  • Status: Cancelled[4]
  • Start Year:

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 was originally planned to have six production trains of 4.5 mtpa, for a total capacity of 27 mtpa.[5] In July 2021, the project promoter, NextDecade, announced that it was reducing the number of trains to 5, while also raising the capacity of each to 5.4 mtpa, maintaining a total capacity of 27 mtpa.[1]

The export terminal would supply natural gas to the Rio Bravo pipeline, a proposed pipeline project. In June 2015, NextDecade,LLC announced that it had raised an additional US$85 million for the Rio Grande LNG project, securing NextDecade's access to commence construction of the project upon permitting.[6] In May 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.[7]

In May 2019, NextDecade awarded contracts worth nearly US$9.6 billion 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 (FID). The contracts are the latest step forward for NextDecade, which also landed a 20-year LNG supply contract with Royal Dutch Shell and pledged to deepen nearly half of the Brownsville Ship Channel to 52 ft.[8]

In December 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a formal approval for 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 per annum (mtpa) of natural gas. 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.[9] 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.[10]

In April 2020, the energy and shipping brokerage Poten & Partners disclosed that the 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. [11]

In May 2020, NextDecade announced that they would be pushing back the project's FID, citing the coronavirus pandemic lowering demand and prices for liquefied natural gas.[12]

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.[3]

In November 2020, the French energy company Engie, which is partly owned by the French government, confirmed that it had pulled out of negotiations with NextDecade over a potential 20 year, US$7 billion contract to buy LNG from the proposed Rio Grande export terminal. Engie's decision is thought to have been influenced by French government concerns over the high methane emissions associated with the gas which NextDecade would be sourcing from Texas oil fields such as the Permian Basin for export overseas. Commenting on Engie's confirmation that it would not be proceeding with the deal, Lorette Philippot of Friends of the Earth France said, "The rejection of this contract by the government and Engie is a new explicit recognition of the climatic, environmental and social ravages of shale gas".

The collapse of the Engie deal means that NextDecade has secured only one firm offtake deal for the Rio Grande terminal, a 20 year agreement with Shell to buy 2 mtpa of LNG. To advance the project and reach FID on two or three trains at the terminal, NextDecade has said it still needs to sell another 9 mtpa of LNG under long-term contracts.[13]

In March 2020, NextDecade said it was continuing work to finalize commercial agreements needed to be able to sanction at least two trains at Rio Grande LNG later in the year. It had secured only a single long-term contract for 2 mtpa with Shell.[14]

As of April 2021, NextDecade was aiming to take a FID on two trains in 2021, according to S&P Global.[15] An August 2021 investor presentation from NextDecade continued to maintain that FID for an initial two-train, 11 mtpa phase was being targeted before the year's end despite having only secured one contract with Shell for 2 mtpa.[16]


In 2017 NextDecade appointed Macquarie Capital and Société Générale as financial advisors for the project after Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation ended its advisory mandate.[17] As of September 2021, and given the project's delayed FID, there were no reported developments on the advisors' efforts to raise financing.


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.[18]

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.[18]

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.[19] A similar suit has been brought against the Rio Grande LNG Terminal.[20]

In August 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling that found problems with FERC's climate and environmental reviews for the Rio Grande LNG export project as well as the Texas LNG Terminal project. The court found that FERC did not go far enough in considering environmental justice and climate impacts in their approval of the two gas infrastructure projects. The federal appeals court remanded the orders authorising the projects but did not vacate them, finding that FERC "is likely to remedy any deficiencies" of its previous ruling on the projects when it reviews them on remand. The promoters of Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG reacted to the ruling by suggesting that it will likely not end the commercial development of the facilities.[21]

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Corporate Presentation, July 2021". NextDecade. July 2021. Archived from the original on 2021-07-12. Retrieved 2021-07-12.
  2. 2.0 2.1 U.S. Liquefaction Capacity, Energy Information Administration, November 3, 2020
  3. 3.0 3.1 Carl Surran, "NextDecade's Rio Grande LNG to cut costs by using five trains, not six", Jul. 14, 2020
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 NextDecade cuts Rio Grande LNG to five trains Oil and Gas Journal, July 15, 2020
  5. Rio Grande Export Terminal LNG Project, A Barrel Full, 9 November 2015
  6. NextDecade Raises Additional $85 million in Pre-FID Funding for its Rio Grande LNG Project, Makes Significant Progress with FERC, Next Decade, 15 June 2015
  7. Rio Grande LNG - Project Overview, Rio Grande LNG, accessed 26 June 2017
  8. Carl Surran,Bechtel wins $9.6B in construction work for NextDecade's Rio Grande LNG Seeking Alpha, May 28, 2019
  9. FERC Approves Four LNG Export Projects Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, November 21, 2019
  10. Four LNG projects along Texas coast land non-FTA export permits Houston Chronicle, Feb. 11, 2020
  11. John Snyder, FID’s delayed by global uncertainty Riviera Maritime Media, Apr. 24, 2020
  12. Sergio Chapa, NextDecade pushes back financial decision on Rio Grande LNG Houston Chronicle, May 18, 2020
  13. Stuart Elliott, Harry Weber, France's Engie pulls out of talks for US LNG import deal with NextDecade: company, S&P Global, Nov. 3, 2020
  14. Harry Weber, Annova LNG discontinuing US export project: operator, S&P Global, Mar. 22, 2021
  15. Corey, Paul (April 5, 2021). "LNG Project Tracker: Commercial talks pick up as field of developers shrinks". S&P Global Market Intelligence.
  16. Caroline Evans, 'Return of North American LNG FIDs' Seen in 2022 — LNG Spotlight, Natural Gas Intelligence, Sep. 17, 2021
  17. "Rio Grande Valley: At Risk from Fracked-Gas Export Terminals", Rainforest Action Network, Save RGV from LNG, Sierra Club, Les Amis de la Terre, July 2019
  18. 18.0 18.1 Three lawsuits filed against Brownsville LNG projects Kallanish Energy, March 31, 2020
  19. Sebastien Malo, IN BRIEF: Green groups challenge approval of Texas gas terminal citing rare wildcat Reuters, April 20, 2020
  20. Sebastien Malo, Environmental groups target species authorizations for Brownsville LNG projects, S&P Global, Apr. 21, 2020
  21. Catherine Morehouse, DC Circuit orders FERC to analyze climate, environmental justice more thoroughly, Utility Dive, Aug. 4, 2021

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