San Diego, CA-based Sempra Energy has pushed back indefinitely opening its 17 Bcf Liberty Gas Storage project in Louisiana that is tied to its liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal in the final months of construction at Cameron, LA, on the Gulf of Mexico. Other than oblique references to construction issues, Sempra offered no details, nor a new target date, for the redeveloped underground salt dome cavern.

In its latest 10Q filing to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier in May, Sempra said its pipelines and storage business are expected to require funding from the company or external sources, or both, to continue Liberty Gas Storage facility and other natural gas storage projects, along with its participation in the Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) and its planned development of pipelines serving its Cameron LNG facility.

“The [long-ago announced] sale of interest in Argentina [in two natural gas distribution companies] is expected to provide cash for company projects,” the SEC filing said.

When asked about the Liberty delay, a San Diego-based Sempra spokesperson said that “due to ongoing construction activities, the commencement of firm storage service will occur at a later date.” He said that Liberty Gas Storage will provide updates as necessary. Earlier web-based communications had targeted April 2008 for the start of the underground storage injections at the Liberty facility.

Originally announced four years ago, Liberty was purchased by a Sempra unit as Pine Prairie Energy Center, close to the Henry Hub, the nation’s largest natural gas trading center. The development plans called for three salt caverns with a total working capacity of 24 Bcf of natural gas, enabling maximum injections of 1.2 Bcf/d and maximum withdrawals of 2.4 Bcf/d.

The facility now under construction, which will be followed by an expansion, is touted as being designed for a 1 Bcf/d withdrawal and 500 MMcf/d injection capability. “By way of a bidirectional 30-inch-diameter pipeline, this project will have access to more than 5 Bcf/d of interstate pipeline capacity linked to multiple markets,” a Sempra fact sheet on the project said. It noted the pipeline operations began last year — including a link to Cameron — and underground storage would begin in April this year.

Early in 2007 Sempra Pipelines & Storage and ProLiance Transportation and Storage LLC held a joint venture open season on Liberty Storage seeking market interest in expansion capacity at their facility in Calcasieu Parish, LA (see Daily GPI, Feb. 27, 2007). With what the partners are calling “strong market response” to the existing 17 Bcf capacity at Liberty and unabated thirst for more gas storage along the Gulf of Mexico coast, Sempra Energy and ProLiance are offering an additional 5 Bcf at the salt dome facility.

Sempra recently announced its Costa Azul LNG terminal in North Baja California, Mexico, may sit mostly idle after it is deemed commercially available later this spring since supplies from Indonesia and Shell’s Russian Sakhalin Island project are not expected to be available until late this year or early in 2009. Shell has leased half the capacity in the North Baja terminal and will be making capacity payments even without deliveries.

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