Liquefied U.S. natural gas further expanded its reach into other countries during the first quarter, thanks to growing exports from Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana.
The Lower 48’s first liquefaction and export facility loaded 43 cargos during the first quarter and delivered them to 16 countries. “That brings the total number of destination countries for Sabine Pass cargoes to 20, an increase of six from the end of the year,” said Anatol Feygin, chief commercial officer during an earnings conference call.
“It's notable that LNG from our facility has now reached more than 50% of all currently importing countries worldwide, basically within the first full year of operations. We expect LNG from our facility to reach two incremental new countries in the near future.”
The increasing cargo departures from Sabine Pass have turned the tide of Cheniere’s fortunes. The company reported first quarter consolidated revenue of $1.2 billion compared to $69 million in the year-ago quarter. Revenue recognized from LNG sales was about $1.1 billion in the first quarter compared with $3 million in the year-ago quarter. Net income was $54 million (23 cents/share) compared to a net loss of $321 million (minus $1.41/share) in the year-ago quarter.
“The growth in all metrics compared to the 2016 period is driven primarily by our continued transition into operations at our Sabine Pass Liquefaction project and favorable market dynamics for our marketing cargos, which emerged during the quarter,” said CEO Jack Fusco.
Demand for LNG in Asia was strong during the first quarter as winter needs, especially in China, South Korea and Taiwan pulled cargos from the Atlantic Basin, Feygin said. Now, though, demand in Asia has moderated post winter, and demand is rising in the Middle East and North Africa as their cooling season begins, he said.
“I think we are all very impressed with the increase in demand, especially in Asia,” Fusco said. “And I don't think any of the consultants have anticipated the demand increases that we're starting to witness.”
Nearly one-quarter of the LNG loaded at Sabine Pass since it began operation last year has been delivered to floating storage regasification units (FSRU) in eight countries, Feygin said. “That is a significant rate considering that total FSRU capacity is just over 10% of the global regas capacity in its entirety,” he said. “So, it certainly appears that floating regasification is playing a significant role for us in broadening the range of markets our LNG accesses.” FSRUs are less expensive to develop than land-based regasification facilities.
Feygin said Cheniere has been in talks with developers of the 10 pipeline projects proposed to access Permian Basin natural gas. “We get involved [in projects] from an investment standpoint if we think that that's the best option for us from a holistic kind of sourcing and supply standpoint,” he said. “We'll continue to be involved in dialog with producers from whom we are buying gas already and on the infrastructure side.”
Cheniere is currently developing its Midship Pipeline project to access gas supplies from Oklahoma.