U.S. FERC approves construction of four LNG export projects in Texas

(Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday approved the construction of four proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities in Texas totalling about 6.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of capacity.

FILE PHOTO: Neil Chatterjee, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, answers questions during a Reuters interview in Washington, U.S., November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Three projects are in the Brownsville area - NextDecade Corp's NEXT.O 3.6-bcfd Rio Grande, Exelon Corp's EXC.O 0.8-bcfd Annova LNG Brownsville and Texas LNG's 0.6-bcfd Brownsville. The fourth, Cheniere Energy Inc's LNG.A 1.5-bcfd Corpus Christi Midscale, is in Corpus Christi.

One billion cubic feet is enough gas to supply about 5 million U.S. homes for a day.

“The Commission has now completed its work on applications for 11 LNG export projects in the past nine months, helping the United States expand the availability of natural gas for our global allies who need access to an efficient, affordable and environmentally friendly fuel for power generation,” FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said in a release.

The three Brownsville proposals are to build greenfield projects along the Brownsville Ship Channel to receive gas from the nearby Permian and Eagle Ford shale basins and have faced concerns from environment and safety advocates.

To gain approval, the Brownsville projects have taken steps like pledging land for the preservation of endangered big cats - jaguarundis and ocelots - that live in the South Texas area.

All four of the projects approved Thursday 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, FERC said.

They are just four of more than four dozen LNG export projects under development in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Including the projects under construction, U.S. LNG export capacity is expected to rise to 6.9 bcfd by the end of 2019 and 9.6 bcfd by the end of 2020 from 6.8 bcfd now.

That keeps the United States on track to become the world’s third-biggest LNG exporter in 2019, behind Qatar and Australia, and the biggest supplier in 2024.

So far this year, FERC has approved projects proposed by Venture Global Calcasieu Pass LLC; Driftwood LNG LLC; Port Arthur LNG LLC; Gulf LNG; Eagle LNG Partners Jacksonville LLC; Venture Global Plaquemines LNG LLC; and Freeport LNG’s Train 4 Expansion Project.

FERC said four other projects are now pending before the commission.

Texas LNG said its project still needs several more approvals, including Texas air permits, before it can make a final investment decision (FID), expected in late 2020 or early 2021.

“We’re in no real hurry to get to FID. We still have a lot of engineering to do,” Texas LNG Chief Executive Vivek Chandra told Reuters.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Additional reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Cynthia Osterman and Richard Pullin