Mexico’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal, which opened five years ago along the Gulf of Mexico coast, has been sold by its tripartite owners to Dutch-based Royal Vopak NV and Spain’s Enagas SA, it was announced Friday. Vopak will be the majority owner (60%).

The sellers of the 500 MMcf/d terminal include Royal Dutch Shell (50%), Total SA (25%) and Mitsui & Co. Ltd. (25%). The Vopak/Enagas joint venture is expected to assume control of Altamira in the third quarter. Closing is subject to regulatory approvals and completion of project financing.

Altamira processes 7.4 billion cubic meters annually of LNG shipments into Mexico from a Shell-Total joint venture, most of which is purchased by the national power authority, Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE). The facility is fully contracted for, according to its two buyers. Vopak said Altamira could be expanded to 10 billion cubic meters per year by adding a third storage tank, and it indicated the joint venture has plans to do so.

The world’s largest independent tank storage service provider, specializing in the storage and handling of bulk liquid chemicals, gasses and oil products, Vopak is a logical buyer in the LNG deal given that it already operates a chemical terminal in Altamira, adjacent to the LNG facility.

“Mexican gas usage is expected to grow in the coming decades, mainly due to new gas-fired power plants coming on stream that will lead to increasing imbalances between local demand and supply,” a Vopak spokesperson said. “The terminal will be able to facilitate the expected additional LNG imports resulting from this imbalance by expanding its capacity.”

A gas pipeline, storage and infrastructure operator in Spain, Enagas said as part of the deal it will make a cash contribution of roughly $48 million, with the rest of the transaction being funded through project financing. “It will not entail any additional outlay by Enagas,” said the company, which operates three LNG receiving terminals in Spain.

The Altamira LNG project consists of two 150,000 cubic-meter LNG storage tanks, regasification facilities with 500 MMcf/d of peak sendout capability, and pipelines to connect to the existing pipeline system in Tamaulipas. The project also includes marine installations, allowing specially designed 180,000-cubic-meter carriers to supply LNG to the terminal. It received its first LNG shipment in August 2006 (see NGI, Aug. 21, 2006).

Mexican energy officials earlier this year said construction of an LNG terminal on the west coast at Manzanillo is scheduled to be completed later this year. Located in the nation’s busiest port, about 100 miles from Guadalajara, the project is being built by Spain’s Repsol YPF.

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