Rio Bravo Pipeline

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Rio Bravo Pipeline map

General description

Operated by Next Decade to provide gas to its subsidiary Rio Grande LNG. Rio Grande LNG will further process the fracked gas, liquefy it, and export it in the form of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) via tanker ships.

Pipeline specifications (it’s actually 2 pipelines):

  • Two 42” pipelines that will be parallel to each other.
  • 137.3 miles in length from Agua Dulce Hub to Port of Brownsville.
  • Right Of Way (ROW): 139.7 total miles, 75 feet wide. Each pipeline will be 25 feet apart.
  • Construction for second pipeline is 18 months after completion of first pipeline.
  • Normal operating pressure of each pipeline will be approximately 1,350 pounds per square inch (psi) with maximum allowable pressure of 1,480 psi.
  • Construction will require a ROW width of 125 feet wide.

Pipelines require more than just pipe! Accompanying infrastructure will include:

  • 2 interconnect booster stations (both in Kenedy County)
  • 3 compressor stations (one in Kleberg, Kenedy, and Cameron County)
  • Associated metering stations, 6 valve sites, and access roads.

Compressor stations are large, noisy, and polluting:

  • Compressor Station 3 in Cameron County near the Port of Brownsville. It is 27 acres large off HWY 48, near the channel cut and across from Bahia Grande.
  • It will include six, electric driven rotary natural gas compressor units of 30,000 hp, totaling a maximum capacity of 180,000 hp.
  • Compressor stations emit volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, and will at times vent methane directly into the air in an event known as a blow-down creating a loud noise which can be heard from miles away.

Compressor Station

Once built, expect more

In the Rio Bravo General Project Description, Resource Report 1 p.63, they state “growing demand in the region, including demand by the [Rio Grande LNG] Project, is likely to stimulate pipeline system enhancements (e.g., looping, additional compression, installation of larger pipelines) to further increase the throughput capacity of the relevant connecting pipelines or other pipelines that may provide competing transportation for shippers currently using the pipelines to which RB Pipeline will connect.” In addition, once a pipeline is built, other pipelines often locate near that ROW. Additional pipeline proposals include pipelines for Texas LNG, Annova LNG, and other pipelines that will cross the border to feed gas to Mexico.

Forcing the pipes through private land using eminent domain
Landowners who refuse to allow the pipeline through their property for a sum of money could have their land seized by eminent domain. The Rio Bravo Pipeline alone will impact over 150 landowners in Cameron, Willacy, Kenedy, Kleberg, and Jim Wells Counties. If the other pipelines are built along different routes, they could affect many more families. If the companies decide to co-locate the pipelines along the same route, these people could have four pipeline pumping as much as 9 billion cubic feet per day of gas on their property, in some cases only yards away from their homes.

Big natural gas transmission pipelines could mean big risks
All natural gas pipelines are subject to explosions and leaks. A 42-inch diameter high-pressure gas line could have a blast radius of over half a mile. If the Rio Bravo and Valley Crossing Pipelines parallels Highway 48, that means that the public highway itself and all port businesses would be in the impact zone, as would the sensitive natural areas of San Martin Lake, South Bay and the Bahia Grande. If the proposed LNG export terminals are built, two of them, Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG would be completely within the half-mile impact zone of the Valley Crossing Pipeline. Both of these facilities transport, store, and handle flammable and explosive chemicals such as propane, ethane, and butane, in addition to vast quantities of LNG. A pipeline rupture alongside the plants would increase the risk of subsequent and, potentially even more devastating, explosions. If the Valley Crossing Pipeline is co-located with the double 42-inch diameter Rio Bravo Pipeline, any blast could trigger multiple line ruptures and an almost unthinkable catastrophe.

Ineffective pipeline safety and risky conditions
Large transmission pipeline accidents do occur. Pipeline failures can result from a number of reasons including external damage, bad welds, or damage during construction or installation. Corrosion is a major cause of pipeline incidents, and the soils in our area are highly corrosive. Texas LNG’s own report noted that they would have to consult a corrosion engineer because steel, metal and concrete elements in contact with the soil would be subject to degradation. Pipeline failures are a common occurrence with Texas experiencing pipeline failures more than any other state.

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