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FERC Approves Fifth New LNG Terminal -- ExxonMobil's Vista del Sol

FERC last Wednesday approved ExxonMobil Corp. affiliates' Vista del Sol liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and associated pipeline facilities near Corpus Christi, TX.

This marked the fifth new LNG terminal project that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved since 2001, and they have all been in the Gulf Coast region, Commissioner Suedeen Kelly said. She noted that FERC has approved 12.5 Bcf/d of new deliverability capacity and 63.6 Bcf of new storage in the region to deal with LNG deliveries. Outgoing Chairman Pat Wood earlier this month identified the Vista del Sol facility as one of the LNG projects that he hoped the agency would approve before he departs on June 30.

"I think this is a beautiful picture of the Gulf," noted Commissioner Nora Brownell, referring to a map of the existing and FERC-certificated LNG projects dotting the Louisiana and Texas coasts.

"For those who don't live in the Gulf...I think there is some belief that they will be served by having the energy [plant] for LNG elsewhere. If you are at either coast, I think it's important to understand that transportation costs [can] add" 50 cents to 80 cents to the price of natural gas for the end-user, Brownell said. "Plus there's the reliability component," added Wood.

The $600 million terminal project, to be built by Vista del Sol LNG Terminal LP, would send out regasified LNG to an interconnect with Tennessee Gas Pipeline in San Patricio County in South Texas, about two miles west of Ingleside along the Gulf Coast. The terminal would process imported LNG for distribution throughout Texas and the United States, and is expected to be operational by 2008 or 2009.

The terminal will include vaporization facilities that have average sendout capacity of 1.1 Bcf/d, with a maximum sendout capacity of 1.4 Bcf/d, as well as three 155,000 cubic meter storage containment LNG storage tanks. The project also will include a 25.3-mile long, 36-inch diameter natural gas sendout pipeline, with potential interconnects with up to eight existing interstate and intrastate pipeline systems, including Tennessee, Texas Eastern Transmission, Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America, Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line, Crosstex Energy Pipeline and HPL's Channel Pipeline. The sendout pipeline is to be built by Vista del Sol Pipeline LP.

ExxonMobil's LNG supply is expected to come from Qatar. In October 2004, the Dallas, TX-based producer and Qatar Petroleum announced an agreement to supply 15.6 million tons of LNG, or 2 Bcf/d, annually to the U.S. for 25 years.

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