Less than a day after getting clearance from FERC, Sempra’s Cameron LNG liquefied natural gas import terminal near Lake Charles, LA, which had been under construction for four years, began commercial operation on Thursday.

Prior to going into service, Cameron LNG completed commissioning activities for the $900 million terminal, which included the arrival of the facility’s first two tanker loads from Trinidad, said Sempra LNG, owner of the terminal and subsidiary of San Diego, CA-based Sempra Energy. The facility originally was to be completed and placed in service by May, but Cameron LNG, citing construction delays, was granted a deadline extension by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The terminal has been under construction since August 2005.

“With today’s announcement, our LNG business now has two fully operational North American receipt terminals with the unique ability to serve suppliers in both the Atlantic and Pacific markets,” said Sempra Energy CEO Donald E. Felsinger.

The terminal, which is located on the Calcasieu Ship Channel about 18 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, has the capacity to regasify up to 1.5 Bcf/d, with the potential to be expanded to 2.65 Bcf/d. The Commission issued a certificate for the terminal project in September 2003 and then approved a proposal to expand the facility to 2.65 Bcf/d in early 2007 (see NGI, Jan. 22, 2007, Sept. 15, 2003).

Affiliate Sempra Pipelines & Storage constructed a 36-mile pipeline to transport natural gas from the terminal facility to existing interstate pipelines to the north.

In June Sempra LNG said it had struck a flexible short-term deal for up to 50 shipments of LNG from one of the world’s largest suppliers of LNG — Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Co. Ltd., an affiliate of RasGas Co. Ltd.in Qatar (see NGI, June 15). The cargoes would be shipped to the terminal between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31, 2010. Each cargo could contain up to 4.8 Bcf of natural gas, according to Sempra.

Four years ago Sempra signed a 20-year deal to provide Italy’s Eni S.p.A, a global oil and gas producer, with approximately 40% of the Cameron facility’s 1.5 Bcf/d capacity under a 20-year terminal services agreement (see NGI, Aug. 8, 2005). The Eni shipments are scheduled to begin soon.

“We plan to expand on this success by continuing to negotiate with other parties interested in acquiring either long- or short-term capacity at Cameron LNG,” Felsinger said.

Sempra LNG’s other LNG receipt terminal, Energia Costa Azul in Baja California, Mexico, began operations in May 2008. It is the first LNG import terminal on the West Coast of North America and is capable of processing 1 Bcf/d.

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