PITTSBURGH – Just 10 years ago, the U.S. was projected to be one of the largest importers of LNG, and in 2008 Cheniere Energy Inc. (NYSE MKT: LNG) built the Sabine Pass LNG terminal for regasification to meet those needs. But today, with the country’s shale gas revolution, the company is turning the facility the other way around and expects to be exporting LNG out of Sabine Pass by late 2015, Corey Grindal, vice president of Cheniere Energy, told a crowd at Hart Energy’s DUG East conference on June 5.
“Why is LNG out of the United States possible?” Grindal asked. “We have huge amounts of reserves and without LNG, there’s not enough demand in this country to consume the gas that will be produced if half of what people [at this conference] have said is going to happen to their forward production curves happens.”
The Sabine Pass terminal is located at the mouth of the Sabine River, which forms the Texas-Louisiana border, on the Louisiana side about 2 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. When finished, it will have six LNG trains. Its customers include Gas Natural Fenosa, a large Spanish utility; Korea Gas Corp., the South Korean utility; GAIL (India) Ltd. (NSE: GAIL.NS), the state-owned Indian utility; and others.
“These countries that are importing LNG have no natural resources,” Grindal said. “They’re going to be buying from the United States as well as Northern Africa, Australia and the Middle East where there are ample reserves to liquefy, put on ships and send overseas.”
Cheniere’s business model is unique in the U.S., Grindal explained, because the company has taken the supply risk upon itself rather than using tolling arrangements where customers are responsible for buying the gas, transporting it and then working with the facility to balance the loads on a daily and monthly basis.
“We’re responsible for acquiring all the gas that’s going to be turned into LNG, handling all the transportation and logistics to make sure it gets to the terminal, as well as working with our operations team to make sure the plan is working on an optimized type basis,” Grindal said. “I personally think that’s one of the reasons that Cheniere has gotten a head start—our model was easy for someone who is not familiar with the U.S. gas market to come in, sign up for space and not worry about having to learn the domestic business.”
Sabine Pass’s trains 1 through 4 have been fully permitted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy and have been fully financed. The first two trains are about 65% complete, with first LNG expected from Train 1 in late 2015. Trains 2, 3 and 4 are scheduled to come into service on a staggered basis after the first train, with six to nine months between each one. The company expects to make the final investment decision (FID) on trains 5 and 6 in mid-2015.
There are four pipelines that connect to Sabine Pass: Cheniere Creole Trail Pipeline, Kinder Morgan Louisiana Pipeline, Transco and Natural Gas Pipeline Co.
“When all of these pipes are in service, there’s not a single interstate pipeline that runs through the state of Texas and Louisiana that we will not be able to access supplies off of into the terminal,” Grindal said.
Cheniere’s Corpus Christi LNG facility will be half the size of Sabine Pass and is located on the north side of Corpus Christi Bay in Texas. The company is almost fully subscribed for the two trains it plans to build and go to FID with in early 2015.