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NGPL pipeline expansion for Corpus Christi LNG passes environmental review

A proposal to expand a Kinder Morgan Inc.-operated natural gas pipeline system cleared a key environmental review, paving the way for a decision approving the project that would boost supplies to Cheniere Energy Inc.'s LNG export facility in Texas.

Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America LLC, or NGPL, applied in February for a Natural Gas Act certificate allowing the compression-based expansion of its Gulf Coast Mainline natural gas system. The estimated $145.2 million project would enable the system to provide 300,000 Dth/d of firm southbound transportation capacity to Corpus Christi Liquefaction LLC. It would also allow NGPL to make 28,000 Dth/d available to the market. (FERC docket CP19-99).

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects in an environmental assessment released Oct. 23 recommended that any commission order on the project contain a finding of "no significant impact" and include 12 environmental mitigation and construction requirements as conditions.

"We have determined that if Natural abandons, constructs, and operates the proposed facilities in accordance with its application and supplements, and the staff's recommended mitigation measures below, approval of the project would not constitute a major action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment," FERC staff said.

The project would include a new 10,000-horsepower compressor unit and related facilities at a compressor station in Victoria County, Texas; a new 15,900-hp turbine at a station in Wharton County, Texas; and two new 23,470-hp turbines at a station in Harrison County, Texas. NGPL would also abandon in place some existing compressor units at two of those stations.

The same pipeline system also provides a backbone of feedgas to Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass LNG export terminal in Louisiana.

Two liquefaction trains are complete and exporting gas at Corpus Christi LNG and a third is under construction. Each of the trains was designed to produce about 4.5 million tonnes per annum of LNG. But Cheniere has said the actual run rate has gotten higher as the company has become more efficient in its production and maintenance.

On Sept. 27, Cheniere sought federal approval to increase the LNG production capacity at both of the company's export terminals. For Corpus Christi LNG, Cheniere asked FERC to authorize an increase of 108.16 Bcf/year, pushing the authorized capacity up to 875.16 Bcf per year, or to around 5.7 mtpa per train. Cheniere asked FERC to approve those requests by May 1, 2020.

Cheniere is also working to commercialize a 9.5-mtpa expansion of the Corpus Christi terminal in anticipation of a final investment decision on the project by the first half of next year.

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