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ExxonMobil's Golden Pass LNG Project Passes Safety, Environmental Muster

FERC on Friday gave final environmental clearance to ExxonMobil Corp's proposed Golden Pass LNG liquefied natural gas (LNG)) terminal and associated pipeline facilities along the Gulf Coast, saying the multi-million-dollar project would meet federal safety standards and have limited adverse environmental impacts.

Commission staff, in a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on the project, concluded that the risks to the public from accidental spills were small. "The likelihood of a cargo containment failure and subsequent LNG spill from a vessel casualty...is unlikely. For similar reasons, an accident involving the onshore LNG import terminal is unlikely to affect the public. As a result, the risk to the public from accidental causes should be negligible." While fearing accidental spills, opponents are most concerned that LNG terminal facilities are attractive targets for terrorists.

The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the terminal/pipeline project also passed environmental muster. "We conclude that, with the use of Golden Pass' proposed mitigation and adoption of our recommended mitigation measures, construction and operation of the proposed facilities would have limited adverse environmental impact."

With the favorable FEIS, the Golden Pass LNG terminal and pipeline facilities are one step away from being certificated by FERC. During his term, the outgoing FERC Chairman Pat Wood said the agency has approved four new LNG terminals, with a total of 54 Bcf/d of capacity, as well as a number of expansions of existing LNG facilities.

The proposed Golden Pass facilities would consist of an LNG terminal and interconnecting pipeline facilities in Jefferson County in Southeast Texas, with approximately 2 Bcf.d of capacity (peak 2.7 Bcf/d) for delivering vaporized gas into existing intrastate and interstate pipeline systems.

The proposed marine terminal basin would be connected to the Port Arthur Channel, and would include a ship maneuvering area, two protected berths and unloading facilities capable of accommodating up to 200 LNG tankers each year. Other facilities would include five storage tanks, with a total working volume of approximately 975,000 barrels; and a pipeline system comprised of 77.8-mile, 36-inch diameter mainline extending from the proposed import terminal to an interconnection with Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line near Starks, LA; a 42.8-mile, 36-inch diameter pipe that would loop the mainline from the import terminal to intrastate American Electric Power's Texoma Pipeline in Orange County, TX; and a 1.8-mile, 24-inch diameter lateral that would extend from the mainline in Jefferson County to an interconnection with ExxonMobil's Beaumont Refinery Complex.

The project would be constructed in two phases and would be operational in the 2008-2009 timeframe, according to ExxonMobil.

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