Engineering firm Bechtel Corp. last month agreed to give NextDecade Corp. more time to fund its proposed Rio Grande liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project in Texas, amid a major setback that the project recently sustained.
Houston-based NextDecade now has until December 21, 2021, to make positive final investment decisions (FIDs) to build up to three liquefaction trains at Rio Grande LNG for construction prices established last year to still be valid. The previous FID deadlines were July 31, 2021, according to a third quarter report NextDecade filed Wednesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Under one contract signed on May 24, 2019, Bechtel would build two liquefaction trains with combined capacity of 11.74 million metric tons/year (mmty), two 180,000-cubic-meter full containment LNG storage tanks, one marine loading berth and related facilities for $7.042 billion, according to a another document NextDecade filed with the SEC. Under a second contract signed the same day, Bechtel would build a third train with capacity of 5.87 mmty and related facilities for $2.323 billion.
The project at full build-out would have a combined capacity of 27 mmty, equivalent to about 3.6 Bcf/d of gas, from five liquefaction trains.
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The contracts allow for relatively small price increases with deadline extensions and other changes, and the deadline presumably could be extended again.
The French government recently delivered a blow to the project by scuttling a proposed $7-billion, 20-year deal for French energy firm Engie to buy LNG from Rio Grande because of environmental concerns over hydraulic fracturing. Rio Grande would get much of its feed gas from the Permian Basin in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico, where significant associated gas volumes are flared due to pipeline constraints. The government has a 23.63% stake in Engie.
NextDecade management has said it is continuing negotiations with multiple customers to sign enough long-term deals to reach an FID in 2021 on at least two trains. Shell has signed a long-term deal to buy 2 mmty from Rio Grande but an LNG export project typically needs to sell at least 60-70% of its capacity under long-term deals to get bank financing.
Management told the SEC that a number cost-cutting measures have been implemented to “ensure” the company “can sustain pre-FID development activities through year-end 2021,” saying spending is expected to average $2 million per month through that period.
Full-time staff has been reduced by 38% since the beginning of 2020 and some top executives, including CEO Matthew Schatzman, have voluntarily reduced their base salaries by 10% for the remainder of 2020, NextDecade told the SEC. In addition, the company has reduced its leased office space, deferred information technology spending until an FID is made and has reached an agreement with Bechtel for limited ongoing work to progress the project.
The company’s cash assets totaled $29.9 million on Sep. 30, compared with $15.7 million in the year-ago period, according to the SEC filing.
NextDecade reported a net loss of $10.8 million (minus 9 cents/share) in the third quarter, compared with a $6.4 million loss (minus 6 cents/share) in the third quarter of 2019.
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