LNG Export Terminal Creates Onshore, Underwater Pipeline Needs

October 2013, Vol. 240 No. 10

A P&GJ Staff Report

United LNG, an LNG export company converting an offshore import terminal to export LNG, expects to require 300 miles of pipeline to serve the facility’s projected 4 BCF/d capacity once fully functional, according to Director Eric Saenz.

Speaking to the National Association of Pipe Coating Applicators (NAPCA) in Houston on Aug. 15, Saenz outlined a plan in which the offshore facility would connect to an underwater pipeline reaching 16 miles into the Gulf of Mexico to the Main Pass Energy Hub, United’s proposed terminal.

Citing a current infrastructure capacity of 3.3 BCF/d, Saenz said the company expected the build phase for the project to last five years and consist primarily of pipeline diameters of 24-36 inches. United has received a permit to export LNG to countries party to the Free Trade Agreement, up to 24 million tons per year. The company has applied for non-free-trade-agreement authorization and anticipates a verdict shortly.

LNG exports could consume 10% of U.S. natural gas production, Saenz said, citing a University of Texas Energy Institute study estimating the impact if all 23 proposed LNG export projects eventually come on line. That might raise gas prices in the United States by 15 cents per MCF, not enough to impact onshore manufacturing or other uses, in Saenz’s opinion. Meanwhile, pipeline companies would experience increased demand for capacity.

Nor would pipeline involvement stop at the water’s edge.

“A lot of these midstream firms, Enterprise, Kinder Morgan, from what I’ve heard, see the need for what’s being built on the Gulf Coast. They’re looking at how to make their pipes bidirectional coming from onshore,” Saenz told the group, with several potential applications. Should the Main Pass project come to fruition as planned, it would include 75 miles of pipeline to take NGLs recovered at the offshore station back to land.

Other speakers at the NAPCA workshop included Janice Tirpack of BASF on that company’s journey toward a comprehensive safety culture; Dolty Cheramie of Pipe Exchange, Inc. with an industry economic outlook for an era in which oil, natural gas, NGLs, steel and pipe are all resources limited by cost, not availability; Steve Nanney of PHMSA with an update on pipeline incidents and integrity management and Brent Lichty of Union Pacific discussing transporting pipe by rail. The meeting also heard from recipients of NAPCA-sponsored scholarships to Kilgore College’s corrosion program and their instructor, Kenya Ray.

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