The Rio Grande LNG facility will be located along the northern shore of the Brownsville Ship Channel, Texas, US. Image courtesy of Rio Grande LNG.
NextDecade is the developer of the 27Mtpa Rio Grande LNG export facility. Image courtesy of ABB.
The Rio Grande LNG export terminal is expected to commence operations in 2023. Image courtesy of Rio Grande LNG.

The Rio Grande liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, estimated to cost more than £11.7bn ($15bn), represents one of the biggest private investments in Texas, US.

NextDecade, a Texas-based LNG development company, is planning to develop a 27 million tons per annum (Mtpa) gas liquefaction and export facility at the Port of Brownsville, along with the 225km-long Rio Bravo feed gas pipeline, as part of this project.

NextDecade’s subsidiary Rio Grande LNG will be responsible for the development and operation of the LNG export terminal, while the feed gas pipeline was to be built and operated by Rio Bravo Pipeline, another subsidiary of NextDecade.

Enbridge signed a definitive agreement to acquire the Rio Bravo Pipeline from NextDecade in February 2020.

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted final environmental approval for the  Rio Grande LNG Project in April 2019, followed by the construction and operation approval for the LNG terminal as well as the associated pipeline in November 2019.

Construction works are expected to be started after reaching a final investment decision (FID) on the project in 2020.

Scheduled for the start of commercial operations in 2023, the initial operational life of the project is estimated to be 20 years.

Rio Grande LNG project background

The FERC issued the notice of intent to prepare the environmental impact statement (EIS) of the Rio Grande LNG project in July 2015, while NextDecade filed FERC application for the project in May 2016.

The project received approval from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to ship LNG to the countries that are part of Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) in September 2016.

NextDecade signed a 30-year lease agreement with the Brownsville Navigation District for a 398ha site at the Port of Brownsville, in March 2019.

NextDecade received DOE approval for LNG export from the project to the USA’s non-FTA countries in February 2020.

Rio Grande LNG terminal location and site details

The Rio Grande LNG export terminal will occupy 303ha along the northern shore of Brownsville Ship Channel in Cameron County, approximately 3.5km west of the Port of Isabel and 15.7km east of Brownsville.

Rio Grande LNG terminal details

The 27Mtpa Rio Grande LNG plant will consist of a total of six liquefaction trains of minimum 4.5Mtpa capacity each. The accompanied gas pre-treatment units will house acid gas removal, mercury removal, natural gas liquids removal, and dehydration facilities.

The LNG produced at the facility will be stored onsite in four full-containment storage tanks of 180,000m³ capacity each.

The Rio Grande terminal will feature four truck loading bays to load up to 15 LNG trucks a day for domestic consumption at vehicle refueling stations in south Texas, and two LNG carrier loading berths for the export of LNG to foreign markets.

With two 20in-marine loading arms, each LNG berthing dock will be capable of simultaneously accommodating two LNG vessels of up to 185,000m³ of individual capacity.

Rio Bravo pipeline details

Feed gas for the Rio Grande LNG terminal will be supplied through the 42in-Rio Bravo dual pipeline system connecting the existing Agua Dulce gas hub in Nueces County, Texas.

The 225km-long twin pipelines will have a combined capacity to deliver 4.5 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of gas a day. Four metering stations and three 180,000hp-compressor stations are planned to be constructed as part of the Rio Bravo pipeline project.

The Agua Dulce hub receives natural gas via several pipeline systems including the Transcontinental Pipeline, Gulf Coast Mainline, and Kinder Morgan Tejas pipeline that source gas from the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale region of Texas.

LNG off-take from the Rio Grande terminal

Shell will purchase 2Mtpa of LNG from the Rio Grande export terminal, under a 20-year gas sales and purchase agreement signed with NextDecade in April 2019.

NextDecade also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Ireland’s Port of Cork Company in July 2017, for the joint development of a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) to import up to 3Mtpa of LNG from the Rio Grande export terminal to the Irish gas markets.

Contractors involved

Bechtel was awarded two lump-sum turnkey engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts worth £7.5bn ($9.56bn) for three liquefaction trains, two storage tanks and two marine berths for phase one development of the Rio Grande LNG project in May 2019.

CB&I (now McDermott) was awarded the front-end engineering and design (FEED) contract for the Rio Grande LNG project in May 2015. It completed the FEED study for the project in February 2018.

NextDecade selected ABB for providing the integrated automation and electrical solutions for the project in March 2018.

GE Oil and Gas was selected as the supplier of gas turbines and compressor units for the Rio Grande LNG project in April 2017.

The consultants involved in the early development phase of the project include Fugro USA Land, CH-IV International, Moffat & Nichol, K&L Gates, and Blue Engineering and Consulting.