FERC rejects rehearing for LNG import project in Puerto Rico

The members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on May 5 rejected a rehearing request over the July 2015 approval by FERC of Aguirre Offshore GasPort LLC‘s liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal facilities, to be built along the southern shore of Puerto Rico near the municipality of Salinas.

In August 2015, Comité Diálogo Ambiental Inc. filed a request for rehearing and stay of the approval order. “As discussed below, we deny rehearing,” said the May 5 FERC order.

Aguirre is developing the Aguirre LNG Project in cooperation with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) as a way to support partial refueling of PREPA’s oil-fired Aguirre power plant, which is located on the shoreline at the LNG project site. The Aguirre Power Complex is the largest power generating facility in Puerto Rico with an installed capacity of approximately 1,492 MW.

The Aguirre LNG Project consists of: an offshore berthing platform to receive LNG; and a 3.8-mile-long subsea pipeline connecting the platform to the Aguirre Power Complex. The platform would be configured to allow for the long-term mooring of a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) in the north (landward) access berth and for receipt of LNG carriers in the south (seaward) access berth.

Aguirre will use one of Excelerate Energy’s existing Energy Bridge Regasification Vessels as the FSRU for the Aguirre LNG Project. The vessels are “purpose-built” LNG tankers that incorporate onboard equipment for the vaporization of LNG and delivery of high-pressure natural gas. The FSRU will receive LNG cargo from LNG carriers via conventional LNG loading arms and cryogenic piping located on the berthing platform and will store, regassify, and deliver regassified natural gas to the berthing platform via high-pressure gas loading arms located on the berthing platform. The FSRU will be moored long-term, but not permanently fixed, to the berthing platform and may be replaced by other vessels during periods of maintenance or for other purposes.

The subsea pipeline will extend from the offshore berthing platform, northward through the Boca del Infierno pass, and across the basin of Jabos Bay to connect with existing Aguirre Power Complex piping. Aguirre will employ Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) to install the portion of the subsea pipeline located in the pass. 

Diálogo, among other things, contended that the air quality analysis for the Aguirre LNG Project is inadequate, stating that “[n]either the AES plant nor any of the other industrial operations nearby in Guayama were explicitly included in the computer monitoring conducted for the EIS.”

Said FERC in response: “The air quality modeling described in the final EIS analyzes the construction and operational air quality impacts of the Aguirre LNG Project. In addition, the July 24 Order specifically addressed Diálogo’s concern about the cumulative air quality impacts of major pollutants from nearby sources such as the AES coal-fired power plant. The order concluded that the analysis of cumulative air quality impacts in the final EIS was appropriate and proportionate to the scope of the project, given that the conversion of the Aguirre Power Complex from primarily fuel oil to primarily natural gas would lead to beneficial changes to the complex’s contribution of emissions. Given that the project’s impact on air quality would be positive, there was no need to engage in more detailed cumulative impact analysis.”

Diálogo also contended that the commission should require further socioeconomic study and environmental justice assessment and disputes statements from Aguirre about the number of potential jobs the project would create or save.

These same arguments were previously made by Diálogo and were adequately responded to in the July 2015 approval order, FERC noted. “The July 24 Order stated that we do not dispute that the project would constitute a major industrial facility in an area already containing existing industrial facilities, sensitive marine resources, and a local economy reliant upon tourism, recreation, and subsistence activities. However, we found that the final EIS accurately disclosed the potential impacts, analyzed proposed mitigation measures for adequacy in order to avoid or minimize impacts, and included recommendations for further mitigation.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.