A long-planned megaproject to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) sourced from Alaska’s North Slope will face additional environmental scrutiny in order to comply with two executive orders from President Biden on climate change, the Department of Energy (DOE) said.

DOE said last Friday (July 2) it intends to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the Alaska LNG project under development by state-owned Alaska Gasline Development Corp., or AGDC.

The SEIS would include analysis of potential environmental impacts associated with natural gas production on the North Slope and a life-cycle analysis calculating the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for LNG exported from the proposed project, DOE said in a notice posted to the Federal Register. 

The life-cycle analysis would take into account “unique issues relating to production, pipeline transportation, and liquefaction in Alaska,” DOE said. Specifically, the analysis “will examine the life-cycle GHG emissions for LNG exported from Alaska by vessel to import markets in Asia (the markets targeted for exports from Alaska) and potentially in other regions.”

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, aka NETL, would conduct both studies. 

Though the project obtained key DOE and FERC authorizations in 2020, the DOE in April granted a request for rehearing filed by the Sierra Club. The request was granted in order to conduct additional environmental review in line with the Biden orders signed in January, DOE said. 

President Biden after taking office directed all executive agencies to use their full legal authority to review and strengthen regulations to confront the climate crisis.

“DOE’s decision to conduct additional analyses doesn’t directly impact the Alaska LNG project,” AGDC spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick told NGI. “AGDC strongly believes that the existing FERC final EIS, published in 2020 after six years of rigorous research and analysis of over 150,000 pages of data, is fully sufficient.”

He added, “The 2020 EIS, which DOE adopted after an independent review, remains in full effect during DOE’s new work.

“AGDC continues to speak with potential project investors and can begin construction as soon as funding has been secured, and will continue to respond to future DOE inquiries.”

The estimated $38.7 billion Alaska LNG project includes an 807-mile natural gas pipeline and a liquefaction terminal on Alaska’s southern coast authorized to export 20 million metric tons/year (2.55 Bcf/d).

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project in May 2020. Commissioner Richard Glick, who is now the FERC chairman, was the sole dissenting vote in the 3-1 decision. 

In August 2020, DOE authorized the project to export LNG to countries that do not have free trade agreements with the United States. The DOE and FERC authorizations both have been challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

“Those lawsuits are ongoing and are currently subject to various pending procedural motions,” DOE said Friday.

AGDC has said the pipeline’s $5.9 billion first phase, spanning about 500 miles from the North Slope to Fairbanks, could begin operating by 2025. AGDC President Frank Richards told NGI this year the firm is targeting full completion of the project by 2030.