Just as the head of the Houston Ship Channel testified before the House Committee on Ways and Means and its subcommittee on Trade declaring an urgency to widen and deepen the busiest seaport in the nation, four new proposed LNG export projects received a green light. What’s the hold up to expedite the channel’s $1 billion plan? Loads of government red tape that threaten to strangle the improvement project set to begin in 2021. Officials from the Ship Channel say the established federal process could take until 2030.

Houston Port Authority

The Port of Houston is one of the world’s largest ports and serves the metropolitan area of Houston, Texas. The port is a 50-mile-long complex of diversified public and private facilities located a few hours’ sailing time from the Gulf of Mexico. Located in the fourth-largest city in the United States, it is the busiest port in the U.S. in terms of foreign tonnage, second-busiest in the U.S. in terms of overall tonnage, and sixteenth-busiest in the world.

porthouston.com

Houston, we have a problem.

Widening and deepening the port’s infrastructure is critical to enable not only Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) to moor, but to accommodate an increasing volume of vessels exporting LNG, petrochemicals, bulk grains and other dry goods—all while keeping pace with growing imports. According to the Port of Houston Authority, the ship channel receives almost 9,000 vessels every year, equal to the total annual ship calls for the next three largest U.S. ports combined.

Meanwhile, Exelon, NextDecade and Cheniere Energy just won federal permits to ship a combined 47 million mtpa of LNG via new export terminals and expansions.

Chicago-based Exelon’s proposed $1.3 billion Annova LNG liquefaction complex at the Port of Brownsville, Texas, will have an initial processing capacity of 6.5 mtpa with gas sourced from the Eagle Ford.

Houston-based NextDecade has two irons in the fire. The $15 billion Rio Grande LNG facility, also at the Port of Brownsville, will offer an initial capacity of 27 mtpa and will include the 135-mile, 4.5 BCFD Rio Bravo Pipeline to transport natural gas from the Agua Dulce area to the export terminal. The company’s Galveston Bay LNG terminal in Texas City, Texas, will offer a total capacity of 16.5 mtpa with gas sourced from the Permian and the Eagle Ford.

Houston-based Cheniere Energy will expand its Corpus Christi LNG export plant with a third liquefaction train, increasing the terminal’s capacity to more than 10 mtpa.

God speed, Houston.

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