A bipartisan coalition of 34 senators has called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to speed up its processing of permit requests to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to foreign countries with which the United States does not have have a free trade agreement (non-FTA). At the current rate, the senators estimated that it could take the department up to two years to approve all of the non-FTA permits pending at DOE.

Senators urged DOE to consider evaluating multiple applications at a single time.

So far DOE has only approved only two company applications for a non-FTA export permit — Freeport LNG’s terminal on Quintana Island, TX, and the Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Cameron Parish, LA.

“We have heard that DOE is planning to consider the remaining permit applications in six to eight week intervals. Currently 20 export applications remain in the queue [at DOE]. On this time line, DOE may not rule on the final application until two years from now,” wrote the coalition led by Sens. James Inhofe (R-OK) and Mark Begich (D-AK) in its letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

“By then, the private financing and market opportunities making these projects attractive may have dissipated, and foreign customers will be forced to turn to other suppliers to secure their energy needs,” the group noted.

“Given this knowledge, will you consider increasing the speed at which you make decisions on these applications? Will you also consider evaluating multiple permit applications during the next rounds of consideration? Further will you consider prioritizing the projects that have clearly established they are commercially viable?,” the DOE was asked.

In late May, DOE conditionally authorized a 20-year non-FTA permit to export of up to 1.4 Bcf/d of LNG from the Freeport terminal (see NGI, May 20). That permit approval came two years after DOE granted the first authorization of a non-FTA export permit for the Sabine Pass terminal in the amount of up to 2.2 Bcf/d (see NGI, May 23, 2011).

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