Whitlock: With NextDecade’s announcement, Campirano can now answer HEB shoppers’ questions

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Every time Brownsville Navigation District port director Eduardo “Eddie” Campirano visited HEB he would get asked the same question from local shoppers. 

“When is the LNG company going to announce their decision?”

Well, now Campirano can tell them. The decision was announced today and the answer is “yes.”

NextDecade has made its Final Investment Decision. In a statement issued Wednesday, July 12, the company said:

“To meet global demand for sustainable energy, NextDecade has made a positive final investment decision (FID) to construct the first three liquefaction trains (Phase 1) at Rio Grande LNG in Brownsville, Texas. By combining emissions reduction associated with our planned carbon capture and storage project, responsibly sourced gas, and our pledge to use net-zero electricity, Rio Grande LNG is expected to produce a lower carbon intensive LNG for the world. 

“Situated on a 984-acre site on the banks of an uncongested deepwater channel, the Rio Grande LNG will be the largest privately funded infrastructure projects in Texas. 

“At full scale, Rio Grande LNG will be capable of producing 27 million metric tonnes of low carbon intensive LNG for export to markets around the world. 

This amount of energy is enough to meet the annual heating requirements of nearly 20 million households, the equivalent of the total number of households in New York and California combined.

“Rio Grande LNG is the first and only U.S. LNG project offering CO2 emissions reduction of more than 90 percent via planned carbon capture and storage – capturing and permanently storing more than 5 million metric tonnes of CO2 per year, equivalent to removing more than one million vehicles from the road annually.

NextDecade has hired Bechtel (Energy Corp.) to build a liquefied natural gas export terminal at the Port of Brownsville. It will handle about 27 million tons of liquefied natural gas.

The project is called Rio Grande LNG. Campirano says it is the largest private sector investment in the state of Texas at $11.4 billion. He says around 5,000 construction jobs will be created over the five years it will take to build. Thereafter, 300 highly paid full-time jobs will be created.

Last week, oilfield services firm Baker Hughes announced it will be supplying three liquefaction trains for NextDecade’s Brownsville project. 

Here is what Campirano has said about the NextDecade project when he spoke at a Select USA event sponsored by the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation. The event took place at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts on April 27, 2023. 

“This project… this is the one that gets all the fanfare. You know, I can’t go to HEB… if you want to know about Brownsville, you’re visiting and you like shopping at grocery stores, just go to a HEB. You’ll… everybody will stop and ask you where you’re from and what you do. Or, if they know what you do, they’ll ask you what’s up with this or that? 

“Well, this is the number one asked question. When is the LNG company going to announce? When is it coming? And why? Well, for one, this is phase one. Right now, this is the largest private sector investment in the state of Texas at $11.4 billion. We’ve never been in that discussion as a region. That’s why it’s such a big deal. Bechtel (Energy Corp.), which is an international company, is going to be building this. Bechtel has been in business for 125 years. It’s family owned and it has built LNG and large scale projects all over the world. They’re the EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction) on this project. 

“They’re telling us that at peak, which will be about two, three years away, there’ll be anywhere between 5,000 to 6000 employees on site. That’s why it’s a big deal for us. Three hundred-plus permanent jobs. 

“Now, again, that’s not a big number, but what is a big number is what they pay. Here in the Valley, our economy is a service economy; tourism, education, government, health and retail. Well, guess what, 80 percent of the people in that business who have a family of four don’t earn the wage to keep you above the poverty line for that measurement. That’s why this is a big deal. These (LNG) jobs, $85,000 a year, $100,000 a year. So that’s why it’s such a big deal. 

“The local governments will get tax money out of this as well.”

Campirano added: “We all have to get ready. But we’ve been waiting for this a long time. 

Campirano pointed out that this is the first of two LNG export terminals to be built at the Port of Brownsville. 

“We have a smaller project called Texas LNG, which is a neighbor of theirs. So if this project happens, you know they’re going to be able… they’re permitted to produce 27 million tons of LNG. Texas LNG is permitted to do four million. They’re small, but, if the industry stays there, we will be the largest producer of LNG of any port in the United States, at 33 million tons per year.”

Campirano also spoke about the LNG project at a South Texas Manufacturers Association meeting in February. 

“This is the one everybody asks me about, all the time,” Campirano  said, referring to the LNG project.

Campirano said NextDecade has a permit to produce 27 million tons of LNG for export. “That puts them on par with the largest LNG producer in the United States which right now is Cheniere, Sabine Pass.”

Campirano said around 6,000 construction jobs would be created. “That’s going to hit us all. That isn’t going to be a Brownsville thing. It’s going to be a Valley thing,” he said.

An announcement on the project could come soon, Campirano said. “I’m almost giddy about when the big announcement is going to come that this thing is going forward.”

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