FERC staff has issued a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for NextDecade Corp.'s Rio Grande LNG project, a proposed 27 million metric ton/year (mmty) liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal, which would be sited at the Port of Brownsville in South Texas, along with an associated 136-mile pipeline system from the Agua Dulce hub.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff concluded that construction and operation of the project would result in some adverse environmental impacts that would be reduced to less than significant levels [CP16-454, CP16-455]. At the same time, staff said that the project, "combined with other projects within the geographic scope, would result in certain significant cumulative impacts."

The Woodlands, TX-based NextDecade filed at FERC for the Rio Grande LNG project in May 2016. The project is proposed for a 1,000-acre industrial site in Cameron County on the Port of Brownsville and represents a potential investment of up to $20 billion.

The terminal would entail six liquefaction trains, each with a nominal capacity of 4.5 mmty (i.e., a long-term average about 0.6 Bcf/d), four LNG tanks (each with a capacity of 180,000 cubic meters), two marine jetties for ocean-going LNG vessels (with capacities ranging from 125,000 to 185,000 cubic meters), one turning basin, and four LNG and two natural gas liquids truck-loading bays, according to the filing.

LNG to be loaded onto trucks at the terminal would be used solely for the purpose of supplying gas to truck-fueling facilities in South Texas and would not be regasified and reintroduced into the U.S. pipeline system.

Pipeline facilities would include twin 42-inch diameter pipelines running parallel, three 180,000 hp compressor stations, two 30,000 hp interconnect booster stations, six mainline valve sites, four metering sites along a 2.4-mile-long header system, as well as ancillary facilities.

The header system at the upstream end of the pipeline would have multiple interconnects to the existing natural gas pipeline grid in the Agua Dulce market area. Firm capacity is expected to be fully subscribed by an affiliate of Rio Bravo Pipeline for the purpose of supplying the terminal.

However, gas transportation for the terminal and any additional purposes would be under results of an open season, which is expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2019, NextDecade said in its filing.

Last month NextDecade launched a competitive engineering, procurement and construction bid process for Rio Grande and issued formal invitations to bid to Bechtel Corp., Fluor Corp.and McDermott International Inc.

FERC will accept comment on the DEIS through Dec. 3. A final EIS is scheduled to be issued April 26.

Assuming final authorization from FERC, NextDecade anticipates making a final investment decision on the project in 3Q2019.