FERC approves Maryland LNG project

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A proposed Maryland natural gas liquefaction facility won a key federal approval yesterday, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorized Dominion Cove Point LNG, LP to build the Cove Point Liquefaction Project in Calvert County, Maryland, and related facilities at an existing compressor station and at metering and regulating sites in Virginia.

Natural gas is an important fuel used globally for electric power generation and heating.  While pipelines offer the most efficient way to transport large volumes of natural gas, liquefied natural gas or LNG can more easily be transported by ship to distant markets.  As US natural gas production has increased in recent years, so too has interest in building facilities to liquefy gas for export or other use.

Under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC authorizes the siting and construction of onshore and near-shore LNG import or export facilities. Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act authorizes FERC to issue certificates of public convenience and necessity for LNG facilities engaged in interstate natural gas transportation by pipeline.

On April 1, 2013, Dominion applied to the FERC for approval under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act to site, construct, and operate the Cove Point Liquefaction Project for the liquefaction and export of domestically-produced natural gas at Dominion’s existing LNG import terminal in Calvert County, Maryland.  Dominion also requested authority under section 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act to construct and operate facilities at its existing compressor station and metering and regulating sites in Virginia.  Collectively, the project will enable Dominion to transport up to 860,000 dekatherms per day of natural gas form existing pipeline interconnects near the west end of the Cove Point Pipeline to the Cove Point terminal for the export of up to 5.75 metric tons of liquefied natural gas per year.

Dominion's requests triggered a case that stretched for over two years of consideration.  During this time, the FERC heard from more than 140 speakers at three public meetings related to an assessment of the project's environmental impacts, and received more than 650 comments from the public and federal, state and local agencies on the application.  In the end, the FERC determined that Dominion’s proposal, as approved with 79 specific conditions required by the Commission’sauthorization, will minimize potential adverse impacts on landowners and the environment.

According to the FERC, Dominion proposes to complete construction of the liquefaction project so that facilities may start service in June 2017.  Notably, the U.S. Department of Energy has already approved Dominion Cove Point’s export of gas to both Free Trade Agreement and non-Free Trade Agreement countries.

The same economic forces motivating the Dominion project support other proposed LNG export projects.  Indeed, FERC has approved three other LNG export projects, all in the Gulf of Mexico -- the Sabine Pass Liquefaction Project, the Freeport LNG Project, and the Cameron LNG Project -- and 14 more LNG export proposals remain pending.

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