DEQ: Venture Global release ‘preventable, unauthorized’

Published 4:34 am Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sent a Compliance Order to Venture Global on June 29 addressing the plant’s violations of the Clean Air Act at their Calcasieu Pass gas export terminal.

One of the incidents detailed in the 36-page Compliance Order is 180,099 pounds of gas directly vented to the atmosphere during one accident in its first month of operation. The State’s DEQ characterized the release “preventable” and “unauthorized.”

The longest release was 212 nonconsecutive hours of carbon monoxide releases from January to June 2022. The highest rate of emissions during that period was 14.66 pounds per hour of carbon monoxide. The facility’s air permit limits carbon monoxide releases to 10.43 pounds per hour.

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The largest rate identified in the DEQ order was 332.6 pounds per hour of nitrogen oxides for about two hours on April 12, 2022. Calcasieu Pass’ permit limit for nitrogen oxide emissions is 42 pounds per hour, according to the DEQ order.

The report also notes that Venture Global was late in reporting violations.

The Bucket Brigade, an environmental grassroots organization, highlighted these details of the Compliance Order, and listed some of the increases sought by Venture Global in a Monday media briefing.

John Allaire, a retired oil and gas environmental engineer, lives 6000 feet from the plant. He has been documenting flaring and other Venture Global Calcasieu Pass incidents since January 2022, and he has 700 date- and time-stamped photographs that support ongoing flaring and flaring that emits sooty smoke.

“We knew they were having problems, we just didn’t know what the problems were because the public reports sent to the state regulator did not indicate anything wrong at the facility,” Shreyas Vasudevan said. Vasudevan is the Bucket Brigade campaign researcher.

In March 2023, that changed. Venture Global submitted its semi-annual monitoring report for the second half of 2022, along with a revised first-half of 2022 report. The first report for the first half of 2022 showed 30-something deviations from permitting allowances.. The second, revised report showed 72. The report for the second half of 2022 showed 60 deviations from permitting allowances.

Corrective actions on the part of Venture Global included applying for a modified air permit to expand pollutant limits for “multiple pieces of equipment, Vasudevan said. .

Allaire gave a rundown of changes in emissions Venture Global would like to see, 132 percent increase in volatile organic compounds, 17 percent in CO2, 61 percent in acrolein, 41 percent in benzine, 38 percent in ethyl benzene, 16 percent in formaldehyde, 1225 percent in hydrogen sulfide and a 1400 percent increase in chromium 6.

Allaire said Venture Global experienced 32 separate occurrences out of compliance for 10 consecutive days or more in 2022, and at one point, the plant operated 143 days in a row with a piece of equipment they knew was out of compliance for a total of 286 days out of compliance.

When the plant received its permit from the Federal Environmental Regulatory Commission (FERC), the expectations for flaring was about 60 hours a year, Allaire said.

Eric Shaeffer, the executive director and co-founder of the Environmental Integrity Project said the permit is a contract with the community about how it’s going to perform.

“The DEQ is not imposing the penalties. It is asking the company to propose a dollar amount to itemize the economic benefit that the company gained through its violations. What pollution control cost did they avoid by operating in this way?” The idea that a company should not make money by blowing its permit limits is pretty fundamenta,” Shaeffer said.

Shaeffer would like to see the state calculate its own independent analysis. Allaire pointed to the benefits of selling on the spot market to the highest bidder before honoring long-term contracts.

At least four companies have filed arbitration with Venture Global. Despite being fully commissioned, Venture Global was able to sell 166 loads and has received more dollars for BTU for natural gas sold in the U.S. than any other LNG exporter.

Venture Global’s plans are to expand its current Cameron Parish facility, taking in another 500 acres of wetlands.

“We’re pushing back,” Allaire said. “We don’t want them to double the size and double the pollution.”

Venture Global LNG has until the end of July to either send a written report to DEQ that outlines its corrective actions at Calcasieu Pass or to dispute the order.