Federal order clears way for Jordan Cove natural gas exports

Dan Brouillette

A federal agency has authorized liquefied natural gas exports from a proposed terminal that could connect Western Colorado supplies with Asian markets.

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the Department of Energy issued a final long-term order allowing exports from the Jordan Cove project in Oregon.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted in March to approved the terminal and Pacific Connector Pipeline.

The project still faces roadblocks, however, from state permitting and court challenges.

“Today’s export authorization for Jordan Cove, the first U.S. West Coast LNG project, will ease access to further position the U.S. as a top supplier of LNG around the world,” Brouillette said.

Under the order, Jordan Cove may export up to 1.08 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas a day. The natural gas may be shipped by ocean-going vessels to countries without free trade agreements, but isn’t prohibited by U.S law. The department previously authorized exports to nations with free trade agreements.

Steven Winberg, assistant secretary for fossil energy, said liquefied natural gas exports will be part of efforts to rebuild the U.S. economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. “The U.S. has exported LNG to 38 countries. With this authorization to Jordan Cove, the United States can look to increase that number with expanded geographic coverage for LNG into key importing markets in Asia, providing enhanced economic opportunities both here in the U.S. and globally.”

The Jordan Cove terminal has been proposed for a location near Coos Bay, a former timber hub on the Oregon coast. The Pacific Connector Pipeline would connect the terminal to a hub 230 miles away in Malin, Oregon. The Malin hub in turn connects to a system of pipelines coming down from Canada and the Ruby Pipeline system in the Western United States, including the Piceance Basin in Western Colorado.

Pembina Piepline, a Canada-based corporation, backs the Jordan Cove project. Pembina also holds a 50 percent ownership stake in the Ruby Pipeline.

A West Coast liquefied natural gas terminal offers competitive advantages over terminals elsewhere in reducing the distance and time it takes to ship natural gas to Asia. A round trip between Coos Bay and Tokyo, for example, takes 27 days.

Japan ranks among the top LNG importers in the world and would like to add North America to a mix of sources that also includes Russia and the Middle East.

For Western Colorado, the Jordan Cove project offers an opportunity to connect natural gas supplies in the Piceance Basin to Asian markets. Long-term contracts would lock in sales and prices and in turn decrease volatility while increasing sustainability and investment in Western Colorado energy development.

Andrew Browning, president of the Western States and Tribal Nations Natural Gas Initiative, said the Energy Department order represents more than approval to export liquefied natural gas. “It represents a decades-long path for domestic LNG to help create jobs in construction, maintenance and operations through the western North America natural gas supply chain as well as steady tax revenue and economic opportunities for rural communities and sovereign tribes in producing regions.”

The group — the members of which include Mesa County as well as Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties in Western Colorado — urged in a letter published in The Oregonian newspaper that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown let the Jordan Cove project move forward.