Cheap Oil and Gas Spark Industrial Boom

U.S. oil and gas production has increased more than fifty percent in the last decade thanks to the hydro-fracturing of shale deposits that’s pushing output to record levels. Unsurprisingly, this is driving investment in the industrial infrastructure needed to turn all that oil and gas into fuel, chemicals, and other high-value products. The Environmental Integrity Project has created a public database to track the environmental and human health impacts of over 350 of the largest projects to build or expand capacity at gas processors, liquefied natural gas terminals, refineries, petrochemical plants, and fertilizer manufacturers.

Monitoring the Industry’s Growth

Concentrated in corridors along the Gulf Coast and increasingly the Appalachian Ohio River Valley, these industrial hubs are major sources of greenhouse gases as well as emissions that contribute to local air pollution.  They may also increase the risk of dangerous explosions or toxic leaks from facilities that are poorly managed or overwhelmed by hurricanes, floods, or other natural disasters. EIP hopes the database can be used to help monitor the industry during this critical period of growth, which is happening especially rapidly under the anti-regulation, industry-friendly Trump Administration.

Our current database identifies 314 projects that have been issued final major Clean Air Act construction permits since 2012 that authorize almost 271 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. EIP is also tracking 43 additional projects that have requested authorization to emit almost 51 million tons of greenhouse gases on an annual basis. Combined, these 357 projects have the potential to emit over 321 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. That’s equivalent to the carbon output from 70 new coal-fired power plants running around the clock. While 199 of these projects are already fully or partially operating, the rest are under construction or in planning phases and have the potential to add over 203 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.

Our database summarizes each project, tallies up the greenhouse gas and “criteria pollutant” emission increases from these construction permits and applications, and provides access to hundreds of electronic permit documents we’ve obtained from state and federal agencies.


Potential Emission Increases (tons per year) of CO2e and criteria air pollutants:

Status #CO2e NOx SO2 VOC COPM2.5
Final Approvals Issued 314270,557,11468,19914,11856,249122,15013,517
Draft and Pending Applications 4350,568,71717,5124,50357,08336,5535,182
Total357321,125,831 85,71118,620113,332158,70318,699

Zoom in and click on a facility marker to explore each project, view its permitted emission increases, and link to permit documents.

You can view the map legends and turn on demographic and political boundary layers by clicking on the legend icon (>>) in the top left corner. The larger the circle, the greater the projected greenhouse gas emissions. The orange color signifies natural gas projects; yellow are oil projects; purple are petrochemical and plastics plants; blue are liquefied natural gas export facilities; and the green are nitrogen fertilizer and explosives plants.

Map of Oil, Gas, and Chemical Projects That Have Been Issued Final Clean Air Act Construction Permits

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Map of Oil, Gas, and Chemical Projects That Have Been Issued Draft Permits or Have Applications Pending

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Applications Received by State Agencies Within the Past Six Months

New Mexico

  • XTO Energy Inc. submitted an application to the New Mexico Environment Department on April 4, 2020 to modify the Cowboy Central Delivery Point in Lea County. This facility is expanding incrementally and would be built over multiple phases to reach a full processing capacity of 1 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas, 600,000 barrels per day of oil stabilization, and 190,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquids stabilization. If authorized, the Cowboy Central Delivery Point could have the potential to emit over 1 million tons of greenhouse gases each year. 

Texas

  • Phillips 66 Company submitted an application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on April 13, 2020 to modify the Borger Refinery in Hutchison County. The ‘Crude Flexibility and Modernization Project’ would authorize the installation of a new continuous catalytic reformer unit and a new naphtha splitter unit. If approved, this project could have the potential to emit over 460,000 tons of greenhouse gases and over 1,000 tons of each criteria pollutant on an annual basis.

West Virginia

  • Blue Racer Midstream, LLC submitted an application to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection on April 28, 2020 to construct a new gas-fired combined cycle electric generating station in Marshall County, which would supply power to the adjacent Natrium Fractionation Plant. If constructed, this project would emit almost 1.5 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.

Applications Submitted to State Economic Development Agencies

Texas

  • Air Liquide Large Industries US LP submitted an application to the Ingleside Independent School District for a Chapter 313 value-limitation agreement to construct a new air separation unit (ASU) for the production of nearly 2,000 tons per day of oxygen, nitrogen, and argon. This proposed industrial gas plant would consist of the main ASU, as well as storage tanks for liquid products. Ratification of the final value-limitation agreement was expected in September, with construction expected to commence in October 2020.
  • Roehm America LLC submitted an application to the Bay City Independent School District to construct a greenfield Methyl Methacrylate (MMA) Plant, capable of producing 250,000 tons of MMA per year from ethylene and natural gas. Ratification of the final value-limitation agreement was expected in August, with construction expected to commence in 2021.

Permits Approaching their Commencement of Construction Deadlines

  • Magnolia LNG, LLC received authorization to construct an 8.8 million metric ton per year liquefied natural gas terminal in Lake Charles, Louisiana on March 21, 2016. LDEQ has already granted two eighteen-month extensions to commence construction on the Magnolia LNG project, which expired on September 21, 2020. If constructed, this LNG export terminal could have the potential to emit over 2.5 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.
  • LDEQ issued a Prevention of Significant Deterioration Permit (PSD-LA-781) to Big Lake Fuels LLC on May 23, 2014, authorizing the construction of a new natural gas to gasoline (G2G) plant in Calcasieu Parish. The facility changed its name to the Big Lake Fuels Methanol Plant after two extension requests were granted by LDEQ, reflecting the decision to only construct the natural gas to methanol portion of the original G2G design and eliminate the methanol to gasoline portion. The new deadline to commence construction on the Big Lake Fuels Methanol Plant is October 25, 2020. If built, the facility would have a production capacity of up to 5,000 metric tons per day of methanol and could have the potential to emit over 2 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. 

Background and Methodology

The projects in question are designed to enable facilities to perform a wide range of operations, including: compressing or processing natural gas, natural gas liquids, and condensate; liquefying natural gas for export; converting liquids or natural gas into petrochemical feedstocks, fertilizer, herbicides, explosives, or plastic resins; or exporting or refining crude oil.

The facilities in the database are either brand new or are being expanded, and have obtained or are seeking major “New Source Review” permits under the Clean Air Act that limit greenhouse gas emissions.  Under federal law, these permitting requirements are triggered by any project likely to increase GHG emissions more than 75,000 tons per year while also significantly increasing emissions of certain “criteria” pollutants known to harm public health. We have included 23 projects that were issued or applied for GHG PSD permits that have been rescinded after a 2014 Supreme Court decision.

The criteria pollutants—which include particulate matter (including fine particles), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs)—are regulated pursuant to health-based air quality standards established under the Clean Air Act.  According to the National Institutes of Health, air pollution exposure is associated with a wide array of health effects, including “respiratory diseases (including asthma and changes in lung function), cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes (such as preterm birth), and even death.”

The potential emission increases and point locations are from each facility’s Federal Clean Air Act New Source Review or Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit(s) or application(s), or Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. The database also includes estimates of demographic characteristics within 1 and 3 miles of each facility. Those were calculated from EPA’s EJSCREEN census block-level dataset and the American Community Survey.


Click the “Download” button below for a database listing all of the projects by state and their emissions:

Click here to view individual permit documents for projects.

Suggested citation: “Environmental Integrity Project. (2020, September 30). Emission Increase Database. Retrieved from https://environmentalintegrity.org/oil-gas-infrastructure-emissions.”

Note: This dataset is routinely updated and will continue to expand. Please contact us if you would like us to include a project in your community or if you would like to report an error.


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