FERC has approved Golden Pass LNG Terminal LLC's request to accept delivery of liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes for test and commissioning of its terminal facilities in Sabine Pass, TX.

"This authorization approves cooldown of the following Phase I facilities: berth 1, LNG storage tanks 1 and 2, and associated piping/equipment necessary for venting. The cooldown of any additional Phase 1 facilities will require additional approvals. Also, this authorization does not grant commencement of services of the project," the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) order [VP04-386] said.

The cargo will be shipped from the Port of Ras Laffan in Qatar aboard a Q-Flex LNG tanker, currently one of the largest LNG carriers in the world, Golden Pass officials said. Earlier this year the facility added yet another liquefaction train (see Daily GPI, Feb. 25).

The terminal is a joint venture owned 70% by Qatar Petroleum International, the international arm of Qatar Petroleum, with the remainder owned by ExxonMobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips. Golden Pass will have the capacity to deliver the equivalent of 2 Bcf/d when it reaches full operation.

David Rosenthal, ExxonMobil Corp.'s investor relations chief, discussed the commissioning of Golden Pass during a conference call with analysts last week.

"With the first cargo at Golden Pass, our entire LNG supply chain has been completed," Rosenthal said. "Our four trains in Qatar are all running at capacity. The facilities are well positioned to meet global gas demand in Europe, Asia and the United States."

Asked what the average utilization rate of Golden Pass would be "over the next six months or so," Rosenthal said the facility's commissioning had to be completed before he could comment.

"We need to step back and start with the commissioning of the terminal at Golden Pass," he said. "That commissioning process typically takes two to three months of effort, and we're focused on getting that right...and making sure the hardware is working properly...Beyond that, it's too early to talk about what will happen after that. We're focused on getting it up and running.

"Down the road, we have tremendous flexibility to place cargoes out of Qatar around the world. We look for maximum contributions, and we expect that to continue going forward. We've got a great LNG business and it's very flexible.

"This is our third LNG terminal...Once we get everything up and running, we'll see the full benefit from the strategy that we now have in place."

Asked where LNG spot sales were headed, Rosenthal said by geography, he didn't have any details. But he said he could "confirm that we're making spot sales" in Asia and elsewhere. "We are taking advantage of market differentials to optimize earnings out of those shipments. In terms of getting specific, we don't have that...The ability to move cargoes around, and to take advantage of what the various markets provide, is a true strength of the business we have in place, and we want to maximize the value of that."

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