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 360 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 309 projects that have been issued final major Clean Air Act construction permits since 2012 that authorize over 250 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. EIP is also tracking 52 additional projects that have requested authorization to emit over 73 million tons of greenhouse gases on an annual basis. Combined, these 361 projects have the potential to emit over 323 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 200 of these projects are already fully or partially operating, the rest are under construction or in planning phases and have the potential to add nearly 206 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 309250,299,29464,09212,62542,199109,44112,041
Draft and Pending Applications 5273,184,60823,6096,72769,12052,0496,861
Total361323,483,902 87,70119,352111,319161,49018,902

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.

North Dakota

  • Nesson Gathering System, LLC, a subsidiary of XTO Energy Inc., submitted two permit applications on March 12, 2020 to construct the Flickertail and RoughRider Compressor Stations in Williams County. If permitted, these two facilities could emit over 193,000 tons of greenhouse gases on an annual basis.
  • ONEOK Rockies Midstream LLC submitted a permit application on January 23, 2020 for the construction of a third processing train at the Demicks Lake Gas Plant in McKenzie County. The Demicks Lake I and II plants are being constructed in phases. This expansion project would allow the plant to process up to 600 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day and, if authorized, could have the potential to emit almost 190,000 tons of greenhouse gases per 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.
  • On March 5, 2020, TPC Group, LLC submitted an application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to authorize the BD Expansion Project at their Houston Plant in Harris County. This major modification would expand the production of butadiene and other light olefin products and, if authorized, could release over 270,000 tons of greenhouses gases every year. 
  • Diamond Green Diesel, LLC and Premcor Refining Group Inc. submitted an application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on February 28, 2020, to construct the Diamond Green Diesel Port Arthur Renewal Diesel Plant. This proposed facility would be co-located adjacent to Premcor’s Valero Port Arthur Refinery, which would provide raw materials, services, and utilities that could result in significant increases of greenhouse gas emissions. The newly constructed facility would refine grease, animal fats, and other plant and vegetable oils to produce diesel, naphtha, and liquefied petroleum gases. If authorized, the project could have the potential to emit over 323,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year.

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 is 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 is expected in August, with construction expected to commence in 2021.

Permits Approaching their Commencement of Construction Deadlines

  • Lake Charles Methanol, LLC was issued Prevention of Significant Deterioration Permit number PSD-LA-803 (M1) on June 30, 2016 to construct the Lake Charles Methanol Gasification Facility in Calcasieu Parish. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) granted two extension requests, extending the commencement of construction deadline to August 24, 2020. If built, the Lake Charles Methanol Plant could emit over 6 million tons of greenhouses gases on an annual basis, more than the carbon output from one coal-fired power plant.
  • 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 expire 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 28 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, July 31). 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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