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LNG imports to Puerto Rico recover to pre-hurricane levels

Mon 15 Apr 2019 by John Snyder

LNG imports to Puerto Rico recover to pre-hurricane levels
All of Puerto Rico’s LNG imported from Trinidad is used for electricity image: EcoEléctrica

Imports of LNG from Trinidad to Puerto Rico last year returned to pre-Hurricane Maria levels, according to the US Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy.

Puerto Rico imported 60.3Bn ft3 (Bcf) of LNG in 2018, a level similar to total LNG imports of 61.3 Bcf in 2016.

Hurricane Maria, a category 5 hurricane, made landfall 20 September 2017, causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage to homes, business, and infrastructure and resulting in more than 3,000 deaths. Power to the island was completely knocked out.

Natural gas supplied about one-third of all of Puerto Rico’s power generation in 2017. All of Puerto Rico’s LNG imports are used for electricity generation.

Since September 2016, Puerto Rico has imported all of its LNG for power generation from Trinidad through long-term contracts.

Peñuelas LNG terminal in Ponce is Puerto Rico’s only LNG import terminal. From 2013 through 2016, Puerto Rico received an average of two LNG cargoes per month, with each cargo providing about 2.5 Bcf of natural gas, or 159M ft3 per day (MMcf/d).

After Hurricane Maria made landfall, Puerto Rico only received one LNG cargo per month in Q4 2017, averaging 78 MMcf/d and bringing the year’s total average to 46.4 Bcf, or 24% lower than the average in 2016.

Puerto Rico resumed its two-cargoes-per-month level of LNG imports four months after Hurricane Maria, although restoration efforts on electricity infrastructure took much longer. Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority reported it had restored electric power to 95% of its customers by April 2018.

Puerto Rico is looking to further expand its natural gas consumption to displace fuel oil for electricity generation. US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved regasification capacity expansion at Peñuelas from 186 MMcf/d to 279 MMcf/d.

Ironically, with US LNG booming, Puerto Rico is limited in the amount of LNG it receives from the mainland US. Crowley Maritime, for example, ships LNG in international shipping organisation containers from Jacksonville, Florida to Puerto Rico. LNG cargoes from the US Gulf have to be shipped on a US-flag vessel for direct service to Puerto Rico because of a collection of US cabotage laws collectively known as the Jones Act. Jones Act, which requires goods or passengers moved in US coastal waters between US ports to be carried on vessels that are US constructed, owned, crewed, and flagged. There are currently no US-flag LNG carriers.

In December 2018, Puerto Rico requested a 10-year waiver to the Jones Act, which would allow US LNG to be transported to Puerto Rico on non-US-flagged vessels. The waiver would allow Puerto Rico to move LNG from the mainland US with prices benchmarked to the Henry Hub, or at prices that are lower than importing natural gas from other countries.

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