FERC refuses to re-look at its approval of the Elba LNG project in Georgia

The members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Dec. 9 rejected a rehearing request from the Sierra Club related to their June 1 order granting Elba Liquefaction Co. LLC (ELC) and Southern LNG Co. LLC authority to site, construct, and operate new natural gas liquefaction and export facilities at Southern LNG’s existing liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal located on Elba Island, Chatham County, Georgia.

The commission had also approved Elba Express Co. LLC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to construct and operate compression facilities in Hart, Jefferson, and Effingham counties, Georgia (Elba Express Modification Project) to enable the existing Elba Express pipeline system to provide additional north-to-south transportation capacity.

Timely requests for rehearing were filed by: the Sierra Club; Karen Grainey and Joseph Bonds; and Stacey Kronquest and Alfred Kritter. They all contended that the commission’s environmental review violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). Said the Dec. 9 FERC order: “For the reasons discussed below, we deny the requests for rehearing.”

In 1979, Southern LNG began operating an LNG import terminal on Elba Island on the Savannah River. After market demand slowed, Southern LNG operated the terminal on standby mode between 1982 and 2000. Beginning in 1999, the commission issued a series of orders that authorized the recommissioning and expansion of the Elba Island terminal. Currently, Southern LNG imports LNG for storage and revaporization using two LNG carrier berths, five LNG storage tanks, and other facilities. The terminal’s current storage capacity is 11.5 billion cubic feet (Bcf), with 1,755 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/day) of peak vaporization and sendout capacity.

The June 2016 order authorized ELC and Southern LNG to add liquefaction capacity at the site that would permit natural gas received from an interconnection with the Twin 30s Pipeline to be treated, liquefied, and sent to Southern LNG’s existing storage tanks. The LNG would ultimately be loaded onto LNG carriers berthed at Southern LNG’s existing marine berth for international export. The Elba Liquefaction Project will primarily consist of the installation of Movable Modular Liquefaction System units and ancillary facilities to be completed in two phases. Upon full completion of both phases, ELC would have the capability to liquefy a total of approximately 2.5 million metric tons per annum of natural gas.

The Department of Energy/Office of Fossil Energy authorized Southern LNG to export LNG to countries with which the United States has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Southern LNG’s request for authorization to export to non-FTA countries remains pending before Department of Energy/Office of Fossil Energy.

The June 2016 order also authorized the Elba Express Modification Project, which includes the segregation of the Twin 30s Pipeline so that one of the lines would take gas to the Elba Island terminal, while the other would take gas away from the terminal. The Modification Project would also include the construction and operation of additional compression at the existing Hartwell Compressor Station in Hart County, Georgia, along with two new compressor stations in Jefferson and Effingham counties, Georgia.[

In the June 2016 order, the commission also approved Southern LNG’s proposed abandonment by removal of its LNG truck loading facilities. The facilities were constructed when the LNG terminal was initially authorized in 1982, but were not recommissioned at the time of the LNG’s terminal reactivation in 2001.

The commission’s environmental review of the Elba Liquefaction Project and the Elba Express Modification Project included the issuance of an Environmental Assessment (EA) on Feb. 5, 2016. The June 2016 order concluded that the two projects are environmentally acceptable actions if constructed and operated in accordance with the applications and supplements and the 92 environmental conditions (many with multiple subparts) imposed by the commission.

On rehearing, Sierra Club asserted the commission too narrowly confined the scope of its NEPA analysis by ignoring indirect effects related to: upstream natural gas production; increased foreign use of natural gas, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their secondary effects; and domestic gas-to-coal switching. Sierra Club also asserted that the commission’s cumulative effects analysis was flawed because it lacked analysis of these effects (natural gas production, GHG emissions, and domestic gas-to-coal switching) when combined with effects from other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable LNG export facilities.

FERC rejected all of these arguments.

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.