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Sabine Pass Nearing First Exports -- This Year or Next

The first train of Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal continues to progress toward online status, but the first export might not be until after the first of the year, which would miss a target set previously by the company.

Cheniere CEO Charif Souki recently told Bloomberg, "Whether we actually export the first cargo this year or next year, I don't know yet.”

Nevertheless, Sabine Pass Liquefaction LLC and Sabine Pass LNG LP on Tuesday received FERC authorization to deliver and store propane and ethylene refrigerants for the first train of the project [CP11-72]. A Cheniere spokeswoman did not respond to NGI's inquiries about when the project would actually come online.

When it comes online, Sabine Pass will be the first U.S. Lower 48 LNG export terminal to enter operation. It will enter a global LNG market that is vastly different from what it was when the project was begun. The spread between U.S. and Asian/European natural gas prices has narrowed, and a number of analysts have said future LNG exports would be uneconomic (see Daily GPIAug. 26).

However, Sabine, being a first-mover in the export game, is seen to be particularly advantaged among U.S. terminals. "Most of the [Sabine] sales arrangements, especially to Asian customers, are take-or-pay contracts," analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said recently. These include fixed tolling fees plus 115% of the Henry Hub price and transportation costs.

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