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LNG World Shipping

US poised for major step-up in LNG exports

Thu 08 Nov 2018 by Mike Corkhill

US poised for major step-up in LNG exports
Corpus Christi Train 1 – set to be the first off the mark among a bank of four imminent new US liquefaction units

Four world-scale liquefaction trains – offering an aggregate 18 mta of LNG production capacity – are set to be commissioned on the US Gulf Coast through Q1 2019. These facilities will be joined by a further four US Gulf trains and 20 mta of potential output over the remaining nine months of next year.

The four liquefaction units poised to commence operations are Corpus Christi LNG Train 1, Cameron LNG Train 1, Sabine Pass LNG Train 5 and Freeport LNG Train 1. Output from these facilities will augment existing LNG exports from the first four trains at Sabine Pass and the single-train Cove Point terminal operated by Dominion Energy on the US east coast, and propel the US up to third place in the LNG exporters' league table. 

Of the four imminent new units, the 4.5-mta Corpus Christi Train 1 in Corpus Christi, Texas looks set to be the first into service. Like Sabine Pass, the three-train Corpus Christi LNG project has been developed by Cheniere Energy.

A week ago the US Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) granted Cheniere permission to load and export Train 1 commissioning cargoes at the Corpus Christi terminal. Furthermore, the company is planning to host an onsite commissioning event on 15 November. The inaugural LNG carrier loading is expected to follow shortly thereafter.

Corpus Christi is the only greenfield terminal among the four, constructed from scratch on land acquired for the scheme. In contrast, liquefaction trains have been added at what were originally LNG import terminals to give Sabine Pass, Cameron and Freeport a bi-directional capability and the ability to export LNG utilising existing storage tanks and jetty facilities. 

Cheniere plans to have the 4.5-mta Corpus Christi Train 2 unit in operation before the end of 2019. Train 3, the final investment decision for which was only taken in June 2018, is due onstream in 2021.

In another recent FERC decision on behalf of Cheniere, in September 2018 the regulatory agency approved a request for permission to introduce feed gas for the commissioning of Train 5 at the Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana, close to the Texas border. The fifth Sabine Pass unit had earlier been tabled for a “first-half 2019” start but it now appears it could be be sooner rather than later within that time window.

Sempra Energy is currently building three 5-mta liquefaction trains at its Cameron LNG terminal in Hackberry, Louisiana. Although the project has suffered some delays to its original timetable due to earlier hurricane damage, Sempra plans to put all three trains into operation in 2019. The commissioning process for Train 1 started earlier this week. 

FERC granted approval in August 2018 for the commissioning process for Freeport LNG Train 1 to commence. Freeport’s published start-up timetable, for all three 5-mta trains to start operations between September 2019 and May 2020, looks conservative in light of the recent FERC clearance to proceed.

In addition to these large-scale US liquefaction train projects, Kinder Morgan is positioning 10 modular, small-scale LNG production units at its existing Elba Island LNG import terminal in Savannah, Georgia. The scheme will provide an aggregate of 2.5 mta of LNG output. The first module is scheduled for a Q1 2019 start and the remaining nine will all be operational by the end of next year.  

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