Report: White House Directs Review of LNG Terminal's GHG Footprint

The review could set new climate criteria for 17 proposed LNG export plants

Calcasieu Pass 2
Calcasieu Pass 2's layout (Venture Global LNG)

Published Jan 25, 2024 6:34 PM by The Maritime Executive

sdThe Biden administration is rethinking its approach to LNG export terminal permitting in advance of the November election, officials have told the New York Times. 

The booming U.S. natural gas industry has fueled a wave of LNG export projects along the U.S. Gulf Coast, and America has become the number-one LNG exporter in the world. Plans for further expansion are vast: there are no less than 17 new facilities at some stage of the development pipeline. 

One of these future projects - Calcasieu Pass 2 - has been targeted by climate scientists and activists because of its overall greenhouse gas footprint, which they estimate would be about 20 times larger than that of the recently-approved Willow oil project in Alaska. 

According to a recent letter to the administration by 170 scientists, the 17 LNG export projects in the permitting pipeline would release a combined 3.9 billion tons of greenhouse gas per year, more than the entire GHG output of the European Union. The finding draws on calculations by Prof. Robert W. Howarth of Cornell University, who estimates that American LNG exports have a net GHG impact at least 25 percent higher than coal, depending on LNG carrier propulsion type. Shale gas production, liquefaction, shipping and regasification all emit methane and CO2 in varying amounts, and Howarth concludes that coal-fired power in Europe has lower net emissions than American LNG-fired power in Europe (on a well-to-grid basis). 

This is relevant to the Biden administration because its Energy Department has control over permitting for LNG exports to foreign countries, and gets to determine whether these exports are in the public interest. Climate activists are aware of this policy lever and have urged the White House to use it. One of them, a young social media influencer named Alex Haraus, has organized a petition campaign to get Biden to delay or cancel Calcasieu Pass 2 - or face consequences at the polls in November. 

Biden's advisors have engaged with Haraus - and, according to the Times, they have directed the Energy Department to more fully evaluate the project's GHG impact. This is expected to delay any possible approval until after the election; in the long run, it could potentially set new and less lenient GHG criteria for evaluating other projects in the pipeline.