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FERC Vacates Order on Cheniere Corpus Christi LNG Terminal

Cheniere Energy had already abandoned plans to build an import-only liquefied natural gas terminal, a company spokeswoman said.

FERC Friday vacated its certificate authorization for Cheniere Energy's Corpus Christi LNG LP to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import-only terminal and associated pipeline, citing the failure of the company to move forward with construction in the seven years since the project was approved by the agency.

The company said it abandoned its plans to construct an import terminal due to the growth in domestic natural gas supplies, which shifted the industry's interest to exports.

In March 2008, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave Corpus Christi LNG and Cheniere Corpus Christi Pipeline Co. an extension until April 18 of this year to complete the 2.6 Bcf/d import terminal and 23-mile pipeline facilities and have them placed in service. FERC approved the Corpus Christi project in 2005, well before shale gas exploded on the scene and took the wind out of many LNG import projects. The facilities initially were to be available for service by April 18, 2008.

But "neither Corpus Christi LNG nor Cheniere Pipeline has begun construction of the authorized facilities. Since the extended deadline for constructing and placing the authorized facilities in service has passed, we are vacating Corpus Christi LNG's and Cheniere Pipeline's authorizations to construct the proposed [facilities]," the letter order said [CP04-37].

The action taken by FERC against the Cheniere companies mirrors an April order in which the agency vacated Jordan Cove Energy Project LP's authorization to build an import-only LNG terminal in Oregon after the company sought pre-filing status to explore the feasibility of a liquefaction export project that would be built and operated at the same site (see Daily GPI, April 17, March 21).

Houston-based Cheniere Energy was not surprised by FERC's order, having already abandoned plans to build an import-only terminal in Corpus Christi, a company spokeswoman said. Like Jordan Cove, the focus of the Cheniere Energy terminal has changed to include LNG exports.

The company's Corpus Christi Liquefaction LLC now plans to build an export/import LNG terminal at the site where it had proposed to erect the import facility in San Patricio County, TX. The facility will have the capability of liquefying natural gas from the pipeline system for export as LNG or importing LNG and regasifying it to send it out into the proposed pipeline that will be built as part of the project.

Cheniere said its project would be "underpinned by the significant resources" in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas, which is 60 miles northwest of Corpus Christi. "U.S. Geologic studies commissioned by Cheniere estimate recoverable oil and gas resources in the Eagle Ford Shale at over 180 Tcfe, or 30 billion boe," the company said. "There are approximately 200 rigs currently drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale, with increasing emphasis placed on development of the play's oil and condensate reservoir window, where significant quantities of associated natural gas rich in NGL content can be produced."

Cheniere Energy expects to file an application for the liquefaction facility at FERC by August, said William English, company vice president of business development, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported. It said it hopes the Commission will act on the application by August 2013, with construction to take four to five years. The company has decided to postpone applying for an export permit from the Department of Energy until after the fall elections.

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