Trans-Pecos Gas Pipeline
|This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.|
Trans-Pecos Gas Pipeline is an operating natural gas pipeline.
- Operator: Texas Pecos Pipeline, LLC
- Parent Company: Energy Transfer Partners L.P.
- Current capacity: 1,400 million cubic feet per day
- Length: 148 miles / 238 km
- Diameter: 42-inches
- Cost: US$767 million
- Financing: US$647 million in debt financing from Bank of Tokyo, BBVA, Mizuho, Sumitomo Mitsu, Caixabank, ING, Intesa San Paolo and Banco de Sabadell
- Status: Operating
- Start Year: 2017
The Trans-Pecos Pipeline is operated by Texas Pecos Pipeline, LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners L.P. Permitting of the 1,093-foot section that runs under the Rio Grande was required by FERC. The remainder of the pipeline lies in Texas and falls under the jurisdiction of the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC). Energy Transfer applied for its FERC permit in May 2015, received a favorable Environmental Assessment in January 2016, and received final FERC approval to build the pipeline in May 2016. Energy Transfer applied for the necessary state T-4 permit from the RRC in January 2015 and received the permit in April 2015. A request by the Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA) for a rehearing with FERC was denied in November 2016. Construction began in September 2016 and the pipeline went into service in March 2017.
The Trans-Pecos Pipeline is the northernmost segment of the Wahalajara pipeline network, which is designed to transport natural gas from Texas to Mexico. The Wahalajara system is named after the Waha oil field in Pecos County, Texas and the Mexican city of Guadalajara, which form the northern and southern extremities of the network. From north to south, the other pipelines included in the Wahalajara network (all on the Mexican side of the border) are the Ojinaga-El Encino Gas Pipeline (completed in 2017), the El Encino-La Laguna Gas Pipeline (2018), the La Laguna-Aguascalientes Natural Gas Pipeline (2019), and the Villa de Reyes-Aguascalientes-Guadalajara Gas Pipeline (2020).
The Trans-Pecos pipeline has been opposed by ranchers, indigenous people, landowners, and other affected residents of the Big Bend area, and by national and local environmental groups, led by the Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA). In June 2016 a group of 100 celebrities including Texans Peter Coyote, Tommy Lee Jones and musician Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Randy Jackson signed their names to an open letter that ran in The Dallas Morning News, voicing their objection to the Trans-Pecos.
Many opponents of the pipeline have questioned why an international project has been largely classified as an intrastate project for purposes of permitting. As Alyce Santoro noted in a May 14, 2015 op-ed in Truthout: "Why is this multibillion-dollar pipeline allowed to be classified as an "intrastate" one - with all protections from national oversight this affords - when the project is being touted very publicly as an international one? ETP has been granted a T-4 permit from the Texas Railroad Commission - the only permit required of intrastate projects - claiming that their pipeline will serve as a 'common carrier' or 'gas utility.'"
The BBCA has voiced these concerns about the pipeline:
- The proposed Trans-Pecos Pipeline (TPP) is to be a high-pressure 42-inch diameter transmission pipeline intended to transport massive quantities of fracked natural gas to power plants in Mexico—enough to power a city of 6.6 million people annually.
- The pipeline is slated to run south from a hub near Coyanosa—through Pecos, Brewster, and Presidio Counties—cross into Mexico at the Rio Grande 12 miles above Presidio and continue to El Encino, Chihuahua, where it will split—one branch going to La Laguna, the other to Topolobampo on the West Coast.
- The TPP was planned by the Mexican Federal Energy Commission to be part of Mexico’s energy infrastructure—a portion of 10,000 miles of pipeline being built to fuel more than 20 new power plants in Mexico as a component of their energy reform.
- Aside from U.S. pipeline companies, the project will only benefit Mexico and will re-invigorate the U.S. fracking industry, an environmentally damaging method of extracting natural gas from shale. Increased exports of natural gas would also drive up U.S. electricity prices and encourage further use of dirty coal power.
- The TPP is likely part of a much larger plan not being publicly discussed. Because the pipeline will terminate on Mexico’s west coast, it may play a role in a major trade agreement known as the Trans Pacific Partnership that will allow liquefied natural gas (LNG) to become a leading export item to energy-hungry countries like Japan.
- The pipeline company claims TPP to be a “gas utility” so that it can condemn land from any landowners who resist. Essentially this land would be taken for use by Mexico.
- Only a 1,093-foot segment of the pipeline, and associated infrastructure of the “transfer facility” at the Rio Grande, will require review under the National Environmental Policy Act. The remaining 143 mile length of the pipeline, passing through intact Chihuahuan Desert grasslands, requires no environmental or cultural review.
- No permit is required to build a commercial natural gas pipeline in Texas, only a permit to operate—issued without review by the Texas Railroad Commission.
- Not a single regulatory agency, at the local, State, or Federal level, has any significant jurisdiction. There is almost no opportunity for the public to weigh in.
- Construction and maintenance will be overseen by a consortium of energy companies including Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), MasTec Inc. and Carso Energy. These companies are owned by Kelcy Warren and Carlos Slim—two of the richest men in the world.
- The consortium’s bid of $767 million was almost half of what was budgeted for the pipeline, suggesting they may select materials and compressor station components based upon the lowest cost rather than safety or health concerns.
- The proposed pipeline will have bi-directional capability and will be able to send or receive up to 1.35 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.
- The pipeline’s proposed route has it running along the northern edge of the town of Alpine and between the town and the rural subdivision of Sunny Glen.
- Natural gas transmission lines place people and the land in jeopardy, especially in a seismically active area such as the Big Bend. The “blast zone” for a 42-inch pipeline is about three and a half football fields in distance from the rupture.
- During construction, a 125-foot-wide swath of land will be excavated approximately 3 feet deep. Within that swath, a trench will be dug an additional 5 feet to accommodate the pipeline; the scale of ground disturbance will be unprecedented in this region.
- Following construction, a 75-foot-wide permanent easement will be maintained; vegetative growth will be controlled by herbicide or brush cutting equipment. Associated infrastructure minimally includes block valve and blowdown stations enclosed in chain link fences and a new network of roads.
- Despite company claims there are “no plans for compression in the initial project,” one or more huge compressor stations are likely to be built along the line to pressurize the gas. These loud, brightly lit stations run 24 hours a day; regular maintenance “blowdowns” emit huge amounts of natural gas and toxic chemicals into the atmosphere such as methane, benzene, toluene, sulfuric oxide, and formaldehyde.
- Construction and maintenance activities will pose many ecological threats including water loss and possible contamination, soil erosion, habitat fragmentation, and the introduction of non-native, invasive plant species.
- Water use during construction and hydrostatic testing of the pipeline will consume between 500 million and 1.5 billion gallons of water, most of which is non-recoverable.
- Because no cultural resource review is required, pipeline construction will impact or destroy archeological sites along the route.
- Letters requesting access from landowners have been vague on location and threatening in tone. Pipeline surveyors have been caught trespassing on private property.
- Very few jobs will be created as ETP will primarily bring in its own workers. Jobs that are offered locally are likely to be short-term.
- Although ETP has said Presidio (or any municipality) could “tap into“ the pipeline, the required infrastructure to do so, at cost of between $7 and $12 million dollars, would be prohibitive.
- The ad valorem tax ETP will pay the counties is unlikely to even offset the cost of damage to roads from heavy equipment or the upgrades needed for the Emergency Management Services to meet the additional risks of leaks and explosions. Nor will it offset the loss of revenue from impacts to tourism, the region’s economic mainstay. These tax payments are based on the value of the pipeline itself, which depreciates over time. Thus, the tax payments will decrease as the pipeline ages—and risks of leaks or explosions rise.
Construction of the pipeline damaged streams, creeks, and seasonal wetlands in its path, and destroyed a 5,000-year-old archeological site, according to environmentalists. Environmentalists also point out the danger of committing to natural gas as a power source, and natural gas infrastructure. According to the Big Bend Group of the Sierra Club, "the name “natural gas” in itself is propaganda. It is actually CH4, or methane, a highly powerful greenhouse gas that is estimated to be more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The RRC commonly grants permits without a public hearing and without notifying landowners along a proposed pipeline's route. Landowners along the Trans-Pecos route were not notified when the project was approved by the RRC, and some landowners found surveyors trespassing on their property.
In November 2015, the project received US$647 million in debt financing from Bank of Tokyo, BBVA, Mizuho, Sumitomo Mitsu, Caixabank, ING, Intesa San Paolo and Banco de Sabadell.
Articles and resources
- Trans-Pecos Gas Pipeline, Energy Transfer website, accessed September 2017
- National Energy and Petrochemical Map , FracTracker, February 28, 2020
- Natural Gas Data, Pipeline Projects Energy Information Agency, July 21, 2020
- "Trans-Pecos Pipeline Project, Texas", Hydrocarbons Technology, accessed Jul. 30, 2020
- "Waha-Presidio Natural Gas Pipeline PPP", IJGlobal, accessed Jul. 30, 2020
- Texas-to-Mexico Trans-Pecos Pipeline Entering Service March 31, Natural Gas Intelligence, Mar. 22, 2017
- Permit T-4A, Permit To Operate A Pipeline In Texas, Railroad Commission of Texas, Apr. 6, 2015
- [157 FERC ¶ 61,081, Docket No. CP15-500-001, ORDER DISMISSING AND DENYING REHEARING], FERC, Nov. 1, 2016
- Texas Pipeline Construction Projects Finished, Oil & Gas Journal, May 3, 2017
- "EL SISTEMA WAHALAJARA TERMINA SU CONSTRUCCIÓN". Sobre Orugas. July 10, 2020.
- Celebs line up to oppose a pipeline across rural west Texas, The Dallas Morning News, Jun. 10, 2016
- Critics Say "Trickery" Used to Seize Land, Build Trans-Pecos Pipeline to Mexico without Full Environmental Review, DeSmog Blog, Jan. 16, 2017
- A Pipeline Strikes Deep in the Heart of Texas, Truthout, May 14, 2015
- Concerns, Big Bend Conservation Alliance, accessed January 2018
- The Trans-Pecos Pipeline: Concerns and Complacency, Big Bed Group, Sierra Club, accessed January 2018
- Revised Texas permitting process complicates eminent domain, Oil & Gas Journal, Nov. 2, 2015
- A Pipeline in the Sand, Texas Monthly, September 2015
- Border Pipelines Face Opposition On Both Sides Of Rio Grande Fronteras, Apr. 13, 2015