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LNG-Related Approvals by FERC Signaling More U.S. Exports in 2019

Federal authorities started off the new year with approvals for a pair of liquefied natural gas (LNG)-related projects that indicate more U.S. exports this year.

On Thursday, one day after receiving FERC approval to begin service on the remaining components of a Texas expansion project to Gulf Coast LNG terminals, parent company Williams announced that full service had begun on the Gulf Connector Expansion.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC (Transco) was cleared to start service on Compressor Station 17 in San Patricio County and Compressor Station 32 in Wharton County. San Patricio is in South Texas near Corpus Christi, while Wharton is south of Houston.

The project expands Transco’s capacity by 475 MMcf/d, providing service to Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Corpus Christi liquefaction terminal and Freeport LNG Development LP’s liquefaction project on the upper Texas coast, which has three liquefaction trains under construction with an export capacity of more than 15 million metric tons/year (mmty). Train 1 at the Corpus Christi facility began producing in mid-November.

“Since 2017, Williams has now added more than 2 Bcf/d of capacity to directly serve global LNG export facilities,” CEO Alan Armstrong said. “Projects like Gulf Connector, which leverage existing gas pipeline infrastructure, make it possible to connect abundant domestic supply with emerging international markets, giving a boost to the U.S. economy while helping meet the world’s increasing demand for clean energy.”

FERC’s approval was based on recent construction status reports and field inspections conducted last month, which found that Transco “has adequately stabilized the construction workspaces and that restoration of the construction work areas is proceeding satisfactorily.”

Gulf Connector is the second pipeline project brought online by Williams that serves growing LNG exports. The first, Gulf Trace Expansion, began serving Cheniere’s Sabine Pass LNG export facility in 2017. Train 5 at Sabine Pass began producing in late October.

In a separate order Thursday, FERC granted Cameron LNG LLC’s request to introduce hazardous fluids and commission the flare pilot system. Additional authorizations for the Louisiana facility are to be issued once Cameron has demonstrated full compliance with the order’s other conditions.

First production at Cameron is expected by the end of June, with all three trains totaling about 14 mmty due online thereafter. The first three trains comprise Phase 1 of the project, with Phase 2, already authorized by FERC, encompassing up to two additional liquefaction trains and up to two additional LNG storage tanks with about 9 mmty of capacity.

In November, Total SA, which is building out LNG stakes along the Gulf Coast, entered a memorandum of understanding to help Sempra Energy develop the Cameron, LA, facility. Total is a 16.6% stakeholder in Cameron, acquired last year through its takeover of the Engie LNG portfolio.

Sempra also is developing the Port Arthur, TX, LNG export project, a facility with two liquefaction trains capable of producing 11 mmty.

The United States is on pace to have the third-largest export capacity in the world by the end of 2019, more than doubling its current export capacity to 8.9 Bcf/d, according to the Energy Information Administration. Qatar and Australia hold the top two respective spots in exports.

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