Along with a final federal U. S. environmental approval for its Louisiana site, San Diego-based Sempra Energy Monday said it received key federal and local approvals for its proposed Costa Azul liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal along the Pacific Coast of North Baja in Mexico. Construction of the Gulf and Pacific Coast projects is expected to begin next year with completion for both projects targeted in 2007.

The key to construction beginning on the time frame now contemplated is successful negotiation of supply deals, for which Sempra said in its last quarterly earnings conference call should happen by the end of this year. Otherwise, there is just one “minor” permit still needed in Mexico, and final Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval for the Louisiana site, which is expected by year-end 2003 also.

Mexico’s federal Comision Regulatodora de Energia (CRE) issued Sempra a storage and re-gasification permit, and the local city of Ensenada provided a key land-use permit, to go along with last week’s final environmental impact statement (EIS) from the FERC for a second proposed receiving terminal near Cameron, LA (see Daily GPI, Aug. 18).

Sempra said its proposed $600 million, 1 Bcf/d LNG receiving terminal project is now the first of several proposed projects to receive what it called “all three key approvals” in Mexico: CRE permit, local land-use permit and a regional environmental permit, which it received last April. Sempra’s site is located about 14 miles north of Ensenada.

The final EIS approval for the Cameron facility, which is conceived as a $700 million, 1.5-Bcf/d terminal, is the first such permit in the U.S. to be issued for a new LNG terminal in more than 20 years. The site is located on the Calcasieu River, about 150 east of Houston and 230 miles west of New Orleans.

Expressing satisfaction at successfully navigating an “extremely rigorous permitting process,” Sempra Donald Felsinger, group president of Sempra Energy Global Enterprises, said the company is now well positioned to build the next two LNG facilities in North America. “These approvals will allow us to move forward to conclude our LNG supply arrangements for both facilities.”

Felsinger called the two proposed LNG terminal sites, which collectively would give Sempra control over 2.5-Bcf/d of gas imports with access to virtually the nation as a whole, “landmark projects” that will be designed to meet what he called the industry’s current “stringent safety standards.”

Reiterating the growing industry projection for continuing decline in U. S. and Canadian gas production, Sempra Energy LNG Corp.’s president, Darcel Hulse, said the two new LNG facilities represent a significant part of the growing strategy to diversify sources of gas for the growing gas-fired power generation sector. “We are strategically positioned with one site on the West Coast and one on the Gulf Coast.”

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