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 created this public database to track the environmental and human health impacts of 423 of the largest projects to build or expand capacity at gas processors, liquefied natural gas terminals, refineries, petrochemical plants, and fertilizer manufacturers. The database also includes 99 interstate natural gas pipeline projects that are under construction or recently completed, or that have been announced or approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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 354 projects that have been issued final major Clean Air Act construction permits since 2012 that authorize nearly 275 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. An additional 45 projects have requested authorization to emit almost 49 million tons of greenhouse gases on an annual basis. Combined, these 399 projects have the potential to emit over 323 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. That’s equivalent to the carbon output from 74 new baseload coal-fired power plants running around the clock. While 263 of these projects are already fully or partially operating, 136 are under construction or in planning phases and have the potential to emit over 155 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.

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

Status #CO2e NOx SO2 VOC COPM2.5
Final Approvals Issued 354274,605,90569,60515,19061,038127,59114,648
Draft and Pending Applications 4548,608,14415,8101,40471,78833,6233,683
Total399322,214,04985,41516,594132,826161,21418,331

Although the majority of projects included in our inventory are considered “major” sources under the Federal Clean Air Act, the emissions totals above include 53 projects that have been issued or applied for “minor” Clean Air Act construction permits since 2012. EIP is also tracking an additional 24 projects that do not trigger greenhouse gas permitting requirements, but could increase annual emissions of other pollutants by up to 664 tons per year of nitrogen oxides (NOx), 203 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), 1,572 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), 1,008 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), and 282 tons of particulate matter (PM2.5).

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.


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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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.


Applications Received by State Agencies Within the Past Six Months

Louisiana

  • Magnolia LNG, LLC submitted an application to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality on September 15, 2020 to construct an 8.8 million metric ton per year liquefied natural gas terminal in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The Magnolia LNG terminal was initially authorized on March 21, 2016 and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has already granted two eighteen-month extensions to commence construction on the project. Once constructed, the Magnolia LNG terminal would have the potential to emit over 2.5 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.

Texas

  • Max Midstream Texas, LLC submitted an application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on October 6, 2020 to modify the Seahawk Crude Condensate Terminal in Point Comfort, Calhoun County. The proposed expansion project would authorize the addition of eight new storage tanks, seven marine loading docks and associated vapor combustion units. If approved, the expansion project would allow the Seahawk Terminal to emit an additional 103,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year, as well as over 80 tons per year of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.
  • INEOS Styrolution America LLC submitted an application to the TCEQ on November 5, 2020 for the Boiler Project at their Texas City Chemical Plant in Galveston County. This permit would authorize the addition of three permanent gas-fired boilers and one temporary boiler to provide steam for a production unit that produces ethylbenzene and styrene, and to the neighboring BP Amoco Texas City Chemical Plant. If approved, the Boiler Project could increase annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 390,000 tons per year.

West Virginia

  • West Virginia Methanol, Inc. submitted an application to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WV DEP) on November 23, 2020 to construct a new methanol plant in Pleasants County. Although this facility is being permitted as a minor source of air pollution, the proposed Pleasants County Methanol Plant would be able to produce 328,500 metric tons of methanol every year and could emit over 90 tons of nitrogen oxides and 47 tons of volatile organic compounds per year. If approved, construction could commence later this year, with start-up of the first methanol unit and power plant expected in 2023.
  • Antero Midstream LLC submitted an application to the WV DEP on February 11, 2021 to construct a new compressor station in Tyler County. If approved, the Wetzel Rich 2 Compressor Station would have the potential to emit over 174,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year.

Applications for State and Local Subsidies

Some state and local governments offer tax credits and other financial incentives to attract new industry investment. Industrial tax exemption programs vary from state to state and often cost local residents millions of dollars in foregone tax revenues. While governments compete for new projects by promoting business-friendly policies, vulnerable communities that are already overburdened with environmental pollution are more likely to bear the health and financial risks. The following section highlights announced projects that have applied for local or state subsidies, but have yet to submit Clean Air Act permit applications.

Texas

  • Roehm America LLC submitted an application to the Bay City Independent School District to construct a greenfield methyl methacrylate (MMA) Plant in Matagorda County, capable of producing 250,000 tons of MMA per year from ethylene and natural gas. Ratification of the final value-limitation agreement was completed in October. Construction is expected to commence in the fourth quarter of 2021, with production planned for 2023.
  • Formosa Plastics Corporation, Texas submitted an application to the Calhoun County Independent School District on November 6, 2020 to construct an ethylene dichloride/ vinyl chloride monomer (EDC/VCM) reactor unit at the existing Point Comfort Complex. Construction on the project is expected to commence in 2021, with commercial operations expected to commence in 2023.
  • Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP announced plans to construct a new world‐scale 1‐Hexene unit in Brazoria County. 1‐Hexene is a used to produce high‐strength polyethylene, a plastic resin commonly converted into film, plastic pipe and detergent bottles, as well as food and beverage containers. Construction is expected to commence in 2022 and the facility is expected to begin operating the following year.
  • Freeport LNG Development, L.P. applied for an appraised value limitation agreement to add a fourth natural gas liquefaction train to the three trains already in commercial operation at the Freeport LNG Export Terminal in Brazoria County. This expansion would allow for the production and export of an additional five million tons of LNG per year, increasing the total export capability of all four trains to over 20 million tons. The Freeport LNG “Train 4 Project” was initially authorized in 2018, but has been delayed by three years. Construction is now expected to commence in January 2022, for a target in-service date of January 1, 2026.

Louisiana

  • Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. is proposing to construct a new methyl methacrylate (MMA) manufacturing complex in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. The proposed plant would be the largest of its kind, with an estimated production capacity of 350,000 tons per year. A final investment decision is expected by mid-2022 and commercial operations are expected as soon as 2025.
  • ExxonMobil announced a suite of projects that would enhance processing capacity at their Baton Rouge Refinery in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. The company is expected to make a decision on whether or not to proceed with the project later this year.
  • CF Industries proposes to expand its Donaldsonville Nitrogen Complex in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. The project would increase the concentration of industrial-grade nitric acid from 60 percent to 65 percent at the Nitric Acid No. 4 plant, which carries an annual production capacity of 600,000 tons. The project would also include the addition of an air chiller, and the installation of product storage and new loading facilities.
  • Shintech Louisiana LLC announced plans to increase PVC manufacturing capacity and expand chlor-alkali and vinyl chloride monomer capacity at their Plaquemine Plant in Iberville Parish, Louisiana, which was announced in 2018 and is expected to be completed this year. The company is also proposing to expand PVC packaging and warehouse operations at their Addis Plant in West Baton Rouge Parish. The expansion projects are expected to be completed in 2023.

Interstate Natural Gas Pipelines – New!

Many of the industrial facilities tracked in our inventory rely on supporting infrastructure, like pipelines that transport oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids from points of production to refineries, processing plants, and export terminals. Once a facility is built, the additional processing capacity it brings to the region introduces a need for more “takeaway capacity,” meaning infrastructure that moves additional volumes of product to market. These pipeline networks are often subject to different permitting requirements that may obscure the long-term environmental impacts resulting from a proposed project.

To better illustrate the true environmental footprint associated with the oil and gas infrastructure buildout, the Environmental Integrity Project has developed a national inventory of new and expanding natural gas pipelines. Our pipelines dataset (included in the data download below) features projects that have submitted applications and initiated pre-filing review with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), as well as pipeline projects that are either under construction or were recently completed.

Our pipelines dataset summarizes each project and the potential short-term air emissions impacts resulting from proposed pipeline construction, as well as any potential long-term emissions generated by additional compression. Our database also tracks the potential water quality and wetlands impacts associated with proposed pipeline construction and operation, and provides access to pipeline maps and hundreds of federal environmental impacts statements and environmental assessments.

Table II below summarizes the key air and water quality impacts from the pipeline projects we are tracking to date. The bulk of these impacts come from only a handful of large pipeline projects. For example, just five pipelines are responsible for approximately 95 percent of permanent wetlands impacts listed in Table II. While 37 of the pipeline projects included in our inventory are already fully or partially operating and 20 are currently under construction, the remaining 35 are still in planning phases and have yet to break ground. We’re also tracking 7 projects for which potential environmental impacts have yet to be determined. These are either in the pre-filing phase and have yet to submit applications to the FERC, or have been announced but have yet to initiate the pre-filing process.

Table II: Potential Environmental Impacts from New and Expanding Interstate Natural Gas Pipelines

Total No. of Pipeline Projects92
Total Pipeline Length3,860 miles
Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Project Construction5,859,179 tons of CO2e
Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Additional Compression14,691,408 tons per year of CO2e*
Area of Wetlands Temporarily Impacted4,954 acres
Area of Wetlands Permanently Impacted8,647 acres
Total No. of Waterbody Crossings5,712
Note: The information presented above will continue to be updated and expanded, and does not represent a complete list of U.S. natural gas pipeline projects.
*This figure includes potential operating emissions from new and expanding compressor stations that are also included in our inventory of stationary sources.

Background and Methodology

This inventory tracks projects that 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. As of January 29, 2021, it also includes interstate natural gas pipelines.

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 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.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed additional tools to assess the amount of toxic chemicals released from industrial facilities and the health risks associated with toxic air pollution. For more information and to access additional data about facilities that are not covered by our inventory, please refer to EPA’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) model, National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) review, or Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) website.

Our interstate natural gas pipelines inventory is based on the Energy Information Administration’s U.S. Natural Gas Pipeline Projects dataset (published January 28, 2021). Potential emissions increases and water quality impacts reflect data published in projects’ federal environmental assessments, environmental impact statements, or applications. For information about crude oil and natural gas liquids pipelines, please refer to the Energy Information Administration’s U.S. Liquids Pipeline Projects (published December 10, 2020).


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

View Permit Documents for Stationary Sources and Pipeline Projects

Suggested citation: “Environmental Integrity Project. (2021, February 26). 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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