Regulators approve Texas natural gas export project

A proposed Freeport, Texas, project to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) has obtained approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the final federal hurdle for the terminal.

The Freeport project is only the third in contiguous states to have federal approval to export LNG to countries with which the United States does not have a free trade agreement. The Energy Department previously declared that Freeport’s proposal is in the public interest, a determination that all non-free-trade agreement natural gas exports must earn.

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Freeport LNG Development already has a natural gas import terminal that was completed in 2005 on the Texas shore about 60 miles south of Houston. When it applied for the export license, it said the dynamics of the United States’ natural gas market had shifted in the last nine years, and there is little demand to import the fuel anymore.

The Freeport project will have three liquefaction units, each with a capacity of 4.4 million metric tons of gas a year.

While the Energy Department’s approval concerned the public interest, FERC’s focuses on environmental factors. In announcing the approval late Wednesday, FERC said Freeport would be subject to about 80 conditions to protect the environment.

Freeport’s approval came as policymakers are debating whether to expedite the process of approving exports in an effort to challenge Russia’s dominance in the Eastern Hemisphere through its control of energy markets. The House has passed a measure to limit the Energy Department’s review to 30 days, and the Senate is considering a similar bill.