As Vitol Inc. extends its global commodities reach with natural gas exports, the Swiss trader has inked a 15-year contract with Houston’s Cheniere Energy Inc. for 70,000 metric tons/year.

The sales and purchase (SPA) agreement, which would begin this year, links liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices to the monthly average of the Henry Hub, plus a fee.

The SPA is with “one of the fastest growing players in the global LNG market,” said Cheniere CEO Jack Fusco. “This agreement continues Cheniere’s commercial momentum and supports our growth plans, while demonstrating the value LNG buyers place on Cheniere’s unique ability to offer flexible solutions tailored to the needs of LNG customers worldwide.”

Vitol, already the world’s largest oil trader, is “committed” to developing a long-term LNG market,  said Group CEO Russell Hardy.

“We believe that LNG has an important role to play in the future energy mix and that its evolution will require a more flexible and tradeable LNG market,” Hardy said.

NGI’s 2Q2018 survey of the top North American gas marketers showed Vitol is making gains. It was ranked No. 20 in the second quarter survey, with gas volumes jumping 144% year/year to 1.66 Bcf/d, up from .68 Bcf/d. The trader was also ranked at No. 20 in the 1Q2018 NGI survey.

Cheniere is readying the fifth export train at the Sabine Pass facility in Cameron Parish, LA, where it began exporting gas in February 2016. Sabine Pass was the first U.S. facility to move gas overseas from domestically produced supply in the Lower 48.

Cheniere is also nearly ready to start up the first of three trains of Corpus Christi Liquefaction LLC in South Texas, In August, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorized Cheniere to begin feed gas at the terminal, signaling it could produce its first commissioning cargo before year's end [No. CP12-507].

In addition to building its North American gas reserves, Vitol is expanding its U.S. oil export plans. Late last year, Vitol and a Hilcorp. Energy Co. affiliate were finalizing a state-of-the-art oil terminal near Corpus Christi to move more Permian Basin volumes overseas.

Worldwide, Vitol trades more than 7 million b/d of crude oil and products. The company has said that at any time, it has as many as 250 ships transporting cargoes.