Train 4 at Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal achieved first LNG production late last month and is expected to produce its first commissioning cargo later this week, management for the Houston-based company said Tuesday.
That cargo is on track for a date of first commercial delivery (DFCD) in the first half of 2018, management said.
The progress on Sabine Pass's fourth train comes as the Louisiana terminal -- which kicked off a new era last year when it exported the first LNG from the U.S. Lower 48 -- has now shipped cargoes to 24 out of 40 LNG importing countries around the world, management told analysts during a 2Q2017 conference call.
Year-to-date, Sabine Pass has reached 10 new countries and has now shipped more than 160 LNG cargoes cumulatively as of July 31 after surpassing the 100-cargo milestone during the second quarter.
Cheniere exported 48 cargoes during the second quarter for a total volume of 170 trillion Btu. That's compared with 11 cargoes and 38 trillion Btu in the year-ago period.
"The market has remained resilient," Chief Commercial Officer Anatol Feygin said. Looking at the 24 countries Sabine Pass has shipped to thus far, "I will say that if somebody said to me a year ago that Latin America will be the plurality of our deliveries, I would not have guessed that, especially the mix in Latin America. It just goes to show the advantage and the flexibility of this business model and this product that it rapidly responds to market conditions.
"...We've talked about price elasticity of demand and how pleasantly surprised we have been with that globally. Latin America is one of those markets." When constraints emerge "our product is able to respond to that and capture those premium prices."
In June, Cheniere reached the DFCD under a 20-year sale and purchase agreement (SPA) with Korea Gas Corp. (KOGAS) for Sabine's Train 3. And in August, the company reached DFCD for 20-year LNG SPAs with Gas Natural Fenosa LNG GOM Ltd. and BG Gulf Coast LNG LLC for Train 2 at Sabine.
With LNG trains entering service ahead of schedule and production ramping up faster than expected, Cheniere is revising up its 2017 guidance for distributable cash flow (DCF) from $0.5 billion ($2.10/share) to $0.7 billion ($2.80/share), management said.
"Cheniere's marketing group has continued to successfully place volumes from Sabine Pass, benefiting from a rebound in Latin American demand. The team has also been able to capitalize on opportunities in Asia and the Middle East as the overall market has stayed relatively strong," Feygin said.
"...Global LNG supply has increased over the first half of this year with a continued ramp-up of projects in Australia and our own three trains at Sabine Pass. More than 15 million tonnes of incremental supply came to the market through the end of June. This was in line with most expectations, which also anticipated the traditional reduction in demand during the second quarter shoulder months. But global LNG demand was resilient during the first and second quarters, with Asian and European consumption leading the way."
When asked whether Gail (India) Ltd. has attempted to renegotiate its SPA with Sabine Pass, CEO Jack Fusco said, "India, and specifically Gail, are extremely important to Cheniere. India, its appetite for LNG, has been growing dramatically, and we view Gail as a long-term customer and believe that 20-year SPA is just the beginning of our relationship.
"Cheniere intends to meet all of our contractual obligations. We intend to meet all of our commitments...and in return, we expect our customers to meet all their obligations and their commitment to Cheniere."
As for Cheniere's Corpus Christi LNG export project, construction continues to progress, with Trains 1 and 2 nearly 70% complete as of the end of June, management said.
Fusco said the company is working towards a Train 3 at Corpus.
"There's only one thing on my whiteboard in my office of things to do, and that one thing is" a final investment decision on Corpus Christi Train 3. "We're totally 100% focused on growing the business. We think Corpus 3 should be the next logical train that gets built in the United States, full stop, for incremental LNG," he said.
Cheniere reported revenues of $1.24 billion for the second quarter, up from $177 million in the year-ago quarter.
The company reported a net loss of $285 million (minus $1.23/share) versus a net loss of $298 million (minus $1.31/share) in the year-ago period.