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Golden Pass LNG Acceleration Gets Nod

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Golden Pass LNG has received the go-ahead from the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to accelerate construction to a 24/7 pace.

The Texas-based three-train LNG export project, owned by QatarEnergy and Exxon Mobil, is slated to come on line in phases between 2024 and 2026, but had been suffering from Covid-19 and supply chain-related delays.

The acceleration, approved over the strenuous objections of the Sierra Club, illustrates that Democratic-led FERC may not be as restrictive in approving gas and LNG projects as some in the industry had feared — although the commission did not act hastily.

FERC took 17 months to grant the approval, including ordering a fresh environmental assessment (EA) as part of its stepped-up effort to ensure increased scrutiny of projects' potential environmental impacts. In the end, it ruled that the changes were in the public interest.

"I have seen a marked improvement in the way DOE [Department of Energy] and the White House are approaching the need for US LNG. They see the geopolitical value," an industry source told Energy Intelligence. However, "FERC isn’t reading off the same script."

The approval allows the company to increase the on-site workforce and extended work hours to achieve 24/7 construction of the 18.1 million ton per year terminal.

No Action — Not An Option

As discussed in the FERC filing, to have taken no action on the acceleration request would have led to more environmental impact, not less.

"Under the no-action alternative, environmental impacts would remain consistent with those analyzed in the July 2016 FEIS [final environmental impact statement], but with additional unforeseen impacts due to extended construction timelines," the commission said.

"Without the proposed increase in traffic volume and work hours, the project will not be able to meet its original schedule, significantly prolonging construction."

Sierra Club Objection

The Sierra Club had pushed for FERC to require a supplemental EIS, but the commission disagreed.

"An EIS would be appropriate where there would be significant adverse impacts on resources ... however, Golden Pass LNG is not proposing new facilities or even changes to authorized facilities; it is proposing changes to the size of its construction workforce and the daily duration of previously authorized activities," FERC said.

"The impacts of the proposed changes to construction activities will be temporary, and mitigated to levels that will not significantly impact the affected resources," it added.

The Changes

Golden Pass is now able to increase the project workforce from 2,900 to 7,700 personnel and is authorized for peak shift construction traffic of 1,200 heavy vehicles, 1,500 passenger vehicles, and 200 buses, according to the filing.

The project also requested expansion of the set of activities that can be performed 24/7 — with 80% of this construction to be conducted during daytime hours.

The construction period for the authorizations requested would extend through Dec. 31, 2025, the filing said.

Topics:
LNG Projects, Policy and Regulation
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