Companies building new liquefied natural gas terminals along the Gulf Coast can now utilize a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that’s closer to home—in Houston.
FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee says the agency is creating a new division in its Office of Energy Projects to accommodate the growing number and complexity of applications to site, build and operate liquefied natural gas export terminals.
The new Division of LNG Facility Review & Inspection will comprise 20 existing LNG staff members in Washington, D.C., and eight additional full-time staffers recruited in the Houston area and based in the new Houston Regional Office.
“As the demand for U.S. LNG and the number and complexity of project applications has grown, the Commission has experienced a similar growth in the need for FERC to expand its oversight in this program area,” Chatterjee said in an announcement. “Much of the work related to these LNG projects, and the expertise it requires, is based in and around Houston, the so-called ‘Energy Capital of the World.'”
As recently as April 2018, FERC had 13 staff dedicated to working on LNG engineering and review issues. That number has since grown to 20 staffers whose efforts are critical to completing engineering reviews, coordinating safety reviews with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration at the Department of Transportation, and preparing engineering analyses for inclusion in environmental documents. The creation of DLNG and expansion in Houston will help prepare FERC for the additional work necessary once LNG project applicants make final investment decisions and move toward construction.
The Office of Energy Projects and the Office of the Executive Director have begun coordinating with the General Services Administration on space requirements and office configuration in Houston. Postings seeking candidates for the additional staff, starting with the Division Director, will be made shortly.
Cheap natural gas has led to a boom of LNG export terminals in the United States. There are four export facilities in operation today, with two more set be in online by the end of 2020. An additional six terminals have received approval and are under construction, and five more have been approved but are not yet under construction.
Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas at the Natural Gas Supply Association, said FERC’s plan to open a Houston office is a “welcome step that reflects the growing nature of the US LNG industry. … Having the office in Houston should assist both regulators and industry during the regulatory process.”
Morgan Stanley analysts have forecasted the United States will lead the world in LNG exports by 2025.