While the Department of Energy (DOE) has yet to decide whether to approve widespread exports of liquefied domestic natural gas, it has already handicapped the field of proposed projects should it decide to proceed. First in line are eight of the 23 project proposals received by DOE that also are currently being reviewed by FERC.

In announcing its latest review of the export question in December, DOE said that if it decided to approve broad exports to the world market, it would consider first those projects that already had begun the very lengthy and very expensive review that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission conducts before it approves the siting and construction plans of export facilities (see NGI, Dec. 10, 2012).

Based on that edict, eight projects — five on the Gulf Coast, two in Oregon and one in Maryland — would go to the head of the line for consideration. Five of the eight are well into FERC’s pre-filing process, which attempts to iron out environmental issues, and three have completed pre-filing and have formally filed for certificates. If all eight were to be approved, the export capacity would total 12.3 Bcf/d, a fraction of the 31 Bcf/d capacity in DOE’s 23 pending projects.

Three projects have completed the pre-filing process and filed their main application for certification. Those are: Freeport LNG, (CP12-509) which proposes facilities with a capacity of 1.8 Bcf/d out of Freeport, TX (see related story); Corpus Christi LNG, 2.1 Bcf/d out of Corpus Christi, TX, (CP12-5078) (see NGI, Sept. 3, 2012) and Sempra-Cameron LNG, 1.7 Bcf/d out of Hackberry, LA (CP13-25) (see NGI, Dec 17, 2012).

Projects enmeshed in the pre-filing process are: Jordan Cove Energy Project LP, 0.9 Bcf/d out of Coos Bay, OR (see NGI, April 23, 2012); Trunkline LNG and Southern Union, 2.4 Bcf/d out of Lake Charles, LA (see NGI, April 9, 2012); Dominion Cove Point LNG, 0.75 out of Cove Point, MD (see NGI, Jan. 7); Oregon LNG, 1.3 Bcf/d out of Astoria, OR (see NGI, July 9, 2012); and Excelerate Energy LP (floating liquefaction), 1.38 Bcf/d out of Lavaca Bay, TX (see NGI, Aug. 27, 2012).

All of the leading eight are for export facilities sited alongside existing LNG import terminals except the two in Oregon and Excelerate’s floating project.

Those U.S. project sponsors that have filed with FERC have a good head start over any latecomers. FERC’s rules say a project must spend at least six months in the pre-filing process and usually it will take more than that before a company can graduate to a certificate application. The five currently in the pre-filing process all have put in their mandatory six months.

FERC has cut one break for companies seeking LNG export certificates; they do not have to have contracts with buyers lined up to prove there is a market for the exports. The Commission said it would waive that requirement that applies to pipeline projects because it believes that the size of the investment involved guarantees that project sponsors will have the requisite customers. Financial backers are likely to make sure of that.

All in all, it takes between a year to 18 months to run the FERC gauntlet. There are no shortcuts. Full environmental impact statements are required for all projects, including those alongside LNG import facilities that already have gone through an environmental review.

Both DOE and FERC already have approved construction of two trains at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Louisiana, and its sponsor, Cheniere Energy Partners LP, has announced substantial financing and the start of construction with a prospective 2015 in-service date (see NGI, Aug. 13, 2012).

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