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Sempra LNG Signs 500 MMcf/d Capacity Deal with Merrill Lynch

Moving closer to selling out the initial capacity of the Cameron, LA, liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal, Sempra Energy announced Thursday it sold another 500 MMcf/d portion of the capacity to Merrill Lynch Commodities Inc.

Sempra LNG said the 15-year, full-service deal with Merrill Lynch gives the company the capability of importing 3.7 million metric tons of LNG annually. The deal is contingent upon Merrill finalizing its LNG supply arrangements.

"Depending on the timing of Merrill Lynch Commodities' arrangements, Sempra LNG would have the flexibility to service the capacity agreement from either the first [1.5 Bcf/d] phase of Cameron's development, to be completed in 2008, or its proposed [1.15 Bcf/d] expansion, which could be completed in 2010," a Sempra spokesperson said.

Sempra said it has received Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval to begin the mandatory pre-filing process to expand Cameron's throughput to 2.65 Bcf/d. Initial construction of the first phase is currently under way, and construction of the expansion could start as early as next year, the company said.

Last year, Sempra signed a 20-year capacity agreement with Italy's Eni SpA, one of the world's largest exploration and production companies, for up to 600 MMcf/d of capacity at Cameron. The combined Eni and Merrill Lynch agreements would account for 1.1 Bcf/d of the terminal's overall capacity.

Calling Merill Lynch Commodities "a respected, well-known" company, Sempra LNG President Darcel Hulse said the firm's keen "knowledge of the marketplace confirms Cameron LNG's position as a strategic gateway for LNG supplies into the United States."

Elsewhere, Sempra LNG's Energia Costa Azul terminal on the Pacific Coast of North Baja California in Mexico began construction a year ago and is "on schedule to be operational by early 2008," according to Hulse. A third Sempra LNG receiving terminal is proposed for Port Arthur, TX. That plant is in the final stages of permitting and could be operational in 2009, Hulse said.

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