Next Decade's Rio Grande LNG: An Industrial Wasteland in the RGV

May 19, 2015

An Enormous and Enormously Destructive Facility

 

Next Decade plans to build a sprawling 1000-acre liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility that will stretch along Highway 48 from Brownsville to Port Isabel for two and a half miles. They'll build two 300-megawatt gas-fired power generators onsite to fuel 6 natural gas liquefaction trains, and 4 storage tanks which are 14 stories high.  A 130-mile long double gas pipeline 42-inches in diameter all the way from Kingsville, and 3 separate compressor stations to keep the pipeline gas at high pressures, will require condemnations along its 170-foot-wide construction corridor.

 

Next Decade's Rio Grande LNG will be similar in size to Sabine Pass LNG near Port Arthur, pictured in the three panoramic photos above.  The top photo shows the trains under construction with the 377 foot flarestack amid the cranes at the center of the photo, the 5 14-story tall storage tanks and the LNG tanker Methane Rita Andrea in the berth.

 

By Far the Largest Polluter in Cameron County

 

Rio Grande LNG has not reported their expected air pollution emissions, but we know that all liquefied natural gas export terminals are major sources of hazardous pollutants.  We can roughly estimate the level of Rio Grande LNG’s pollution by comparing its planned production capacity with that of other LNG export terminals currently under construction in the U.S.[1]   Pollution associated with Rio Grande LNG’s 3.6 billion cubic feet per day production of LNG:

 

Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)

5,790 tons per year

300 times what the Silas Ray Power Plant produces

 

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

8,837 tons per year

People with heart disease are especially susceptible.

 

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

300 tons per year

Carcinogens and neurotoxins: There is no safe level of VOCs.

 

Greenhouse Gases (GHG)

8,416 million tons per year

64 times the carbon footprint of the Silas Ray power plant

 

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

24 tons per year

Causes acid rain which could harm nearby marine environments

 

Particulate Matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5)        

372 tons per year

Causes asthma attacks. Cameron County already has high levels

 

Destroying Wetlands and Severing the Wildlife Corridor

 

Roughly half of the Rio Grande LNG site is made up of wetlands that will be filled in, along with coastal prairie and native brush that will be bulldozed and paved over.  It is also next to the Bahia Grande, the largest wetlands restoration project in North America. The plant’s harmful emissions will pollute the Bahia, and its intense lighting and loud noise will disrupt wildlife, which will no longer be able to travel between the Bahia and the river.

 

A map of Next Decade's Rio Grande LNG site showing the environmentally sensitive areas. The blue area is all wetland.

 

Too Close for Comfort to Port Isabel

 

Rio Grande LNG’s liquefied natural gas terminal will be built just 2.7 miles from Port Isabel.  This is just outside the 2.2-mile outer hazard zone developed by Sandia National Laboratories for LNG tanker ships[2] but it violates the 3-mile hazard zone recommended by chemical engineer and LNG safety expert Dr. Jerry Havens.[3]

 

LNG is dangerous because it is such a concentrated source of fuel, and the Rio Grande LNG export terminal will be storing so much of it.  In the event of a spill LNG evaporates and can form a flammable vapor cloud that can drift along the ground for miles before igniting.  LNG fires burn so hot that first responders cannot approach.[4] The LNG refrigeration process also uses fuels such as propane and ethylene to cool the gas, and these are highly flammable and explosive.

 

LNG Threatens Our Existing Tourism and Fishing Jobs

 

Next Decade is touting the jobs they will bring, but they don’t talk about the thousands of existing jobs which will be threatened by massive industrialization and pollution that the export terminal will bring.  Commercial fishing, shrimping, and beach and nature tourism depend on clean air, clean water and high quality fish and wildlife habitat.  The view from South Padre Island’s beachfront hotels and condos will be transformed into an industrial wasteland: four 14-story storage tanks flooded with security lights at night, a visible brown cloud and a fiery flare stack.  Those are not the sights and smells that draw tourists.

 

Rio Grande LNG Will Not Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes

 

The Cameron County Commission is considering allowing Next Decade to operate for ten years tax-free. The company’s profits will go to distant shareholders instead of to our local schools, fire departments and roads.

 

Exporting Natural Gas Will Hurt – Not Help - Our Economy

 

Many U.S. industries are strongly opposed to exporting LNG. The Industrial Energy Consumers of America, the American Public Gas Association, and America’s Energy Advantage all oppose exporting America’s natural gas, as it will drive up U.S. natural gas prices and hurt American industries and consumers. In fact, the U.S. Energy Information Administration has predicted higher natural gas prices, and price on all consumer goods, if LNG is heavily exported.[5]

 

 

 

[1] Based on published emissions estimates for Sabine Pass LNG: Sabine Pass Liquefaction LLC et al., FERC DKT. PF13-8, Draft Resource Report 9 at 11-12, Table 9.2-10.

 

[2] Sandia Report, “Guidance on Risk Analysis and Safety Implications of a Large Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Spill Over Water,” Dec 2004.

 

[3] Jerry Havens, “LNG: Safety in Science.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 60:1 (2004) and quoted in Ted Sickinger. ”Scientists say public safety hazards at Jordan Cove LNG terminal in Coos Bay are underestimated.” The Oregonian, 16 Jan 2015.

 

[4] Congressional Research Service, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Import Terminals: Siting, Safety and Regulation. 28 Jan 2004.

 

[5] U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Effect of Increased Natural Gas Exports on Domestic Energy Markets.” Jan 2012.

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