FBI investigates after explosion: LNG factory in Texas is closed until September

FBI investigation after the explosion
The LNG factory in Texas is closed until September

A German hope for an early replacement of Russian natural gas has long been lacking: after the explosion in June, a large plant in Texas will remain closed at least until September. According to a report, the FBI is investigating whether Moscow has anything to do with the incident.

The large liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in the US state of Texas, shut down due to a fire, could remain shut down for several weeks. The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Transportation Administration (PHMSA) denied the operator Freeport LNG permission to restart the plant. Without further measures, a company is a public safety risk, the authority said in its preliminary report. First of all, an external investigation must be completed.

This could delay the restart of the plant, which processes natural gas in the form of a highly refrigerated liquid for export by ship, until September. Freeport LNG could not be immediately reached for comment. The plant on the Gulf Coast of the United States caught fire in early June after an explosion. In its report, PHMSA cited the failure of a safety valve, which led to excessive pressure in a pipeline, as the cause. This is how LNG and methane were released. The plant can process up to 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day for export. This amount would be enough to supply ten million US households for one day. The facility is used by several companies, including divisions of BP, Jera, Kansai Electric, Osaka Gas, SK E&S and Total.

Russian secret services involved?

The timing of the incident raised the question of whether it could be Russian sabotage. According to the “Washington Examiner”, the IT units of the GRU secret service have carried out targeted reconnaissance operations against Freeport LNG, which is one of the largest exporters of liquid gas in the United States, around the beginning of the Ukrainian invasion. A source told him the FBI was investigating the case, the paper wrote. The same authorities told him that they could neither confirm nor deny it.

Freeport wrote in a statement that the gas leaked from the pipes from the storage tanks to the port facilities and ignited. The accident was probably due to a fracture due to overpressure. How such an incident could have happened despite the necessary security measures is now being investigated.

Global demand for liquefied natural gas has increased significantly since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. European countries in particular are trying to reduce their dependence on Russian energy sources. Economy Minister Robert Habeck fears Nord Stream will stop supplying gas from Russia altogether. From 11 July there is the threat of “a total blockade of Nord Stream 1”, said the green politician of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. That’s why it can be problematic in the winter.

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