Federal regulators on Thursday gave the green light to Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC (TGP) to substantially increase its natural gas export capacity from Texas to Mexico.

In one of two orders amending TGP’s presidential permit, FERC approved an increase in export capacity allowing the company to boost capacity of its cross-border pipeline by up to 468 MMcf/d from 185 MMcf/d. The 24-inch diameter pipeline extends from an existing system in Hidalgo County, TX, to the international boundary near Reynosa, MX, where it connects with facilities owned by Mexico’s state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos, aka Pemex.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Deputy Secretary Nathaniel Davis said the facilities would continue to promote international energy trade and further the goals of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Increasing Tennessee’s import and export capacity promotes national economic policy and stimulates the flow of goods and services between the United States and Mexico,” Davis said.

In a separate order, FERC also approved TGP’s request to increase export capacity to 420 MMcf/d from 320 MMcf/d at the Rio Bravo border crossing facilities that interconnect with Gasoducto Del Rio facilities. The Rio Bravo border crossing facility consists of 1,000 feet of 30-inch diameter pipeline that extends from TGP’s existing Rio Bravo Lateral in Hidalgo County to the international boundary at the midpoint of the Rio Grande River, where it connects with facilities owned by Gasoducto.

Because of “increased customer interest in moving natural gas across the border to Mexico,” TGP requested to amend its existing Natural Gas Act section 3 authorizations and presidential permits to reflect the system’s maximum capacity at these two points.  “It is important to note that TGP is not proposing any new construction or modifications to its previously-approved facilities,” KMI spokeswoman Sara Hughes told NGI.

TGP was given 30 days from the day the orders were issued to accept the amended permits.

Parent company Kinder Morgan Inc. (KMI) has made no secret of its desire to send more gas to Mexico. Speaking in June at the 4th Mexico Gas Summit in San Antonio, TX, KMI Vice President Gregory Ruben, who oversees business development, said some of the company’s future growth is based on projections for the Permian Basin, where oil is surging and thus producing more associated gas. The basin’s proximity to Mexico provides “connectivity opportunities. We’re continuing to look for opportunities to expand our footprint into the marketplace.”

Mexico’s energy reform has opened the door to opportunities, and the company now is looking for the “best connection at this point in time,” Ruben said.

Pipeline shipments to Mexico from the United States grew 12.5% to 4.35 Bcf/d in April, versus 3.87 Bcf/d in the year-ago month, according to the latest Energy Ministry (Sener) data. KMI owns the second largest import point in Mexico, the Mier-Monterrey pipeline in Nuevo Leon, near the state capital Monterrey. The pipeline delivered 470 MMcf/d in April, down 9.4% year/year.

KMI’s Border Pipeline, meanwhile, has been planning a 150 MMcf/d expansion that was due in-service at the beginning of this month, and which would boost its total capacity to 450 MMcf/d. The Texas-based company also is pondering more gas takeaway from the Permian to supply Mexico.

KMI in June said it signed a letter of intent with Blackstone Energy Partners’ EagleClaw Midstream Ventures LLC and Apache Corp. for the proposed Permian Highway Pipeline Project (PHP), a 42-inch diameter system that would run about 430 miles from the Permian to markets along the Texas coast and potentially into Mexico.

The estimated $2 billion system would move gas from the Waha hub in West Texas. The potential partners also are pondering an even larger system. PHP could be in service in late 2020, subject to executing definitive agreements and receiving construction permits.

PHP would complement KMI’s 2 Bcf/d Gulf Coast Express (GCX) Pipeline Project now underway. GCX is the first greenfield pipeline project to carry gas supplies from the basin since the advent of unconventional development. Apache has 500 MMcf/d of transport capacity via GCX to transport its Permian gas, which has been increasing in the Alpine High of the Delaware sub-basin.