Years needed for LNG exports to blunt Russian energy sales

Energy, FERC

The path to approval for gas-export projects is complex. Exporters need an Energy Department permit to ship the fuel to countries that don’t have a free-trade agreement with the U.S. - - such as Japan and those in the 28-nation EU. The FERC conducts a separate environmental and safety review. State regulators also weigh in.

The FERC and Energy Department reviews can take one year and as long a two before a decision is made.

The agencies review projects as expeditiously as possible, on a case-by-case basis, spokesmen for the agencies have said.

The Energy Department has approved six applications for export projects that would process 9.07 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas a day. It’s weighing 24 applications for projects to handle more than 31 billion cubic feet. The U.S. produces an average of 69 billion cubic feet of gas a day.

Ukraine Needs

Representative Fred Upton, who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee, endorsed Gardner’s bill, which would approve all pending LNG-export projects that had received a notice in the Federal Register as of yesterday. Projects would still need to clear a federal environmental and safety review.

“Passing this legislation sends the clear signal that America intends to take full advantage of our energy resources,” Upton, a Michigan Republican, said in a statement.

Lawmakers want to expedite the approvals so U.S. allies, such as nations in Europe that get about 30 percent of their natural gas from Russia, will have more options.

Ukraine in 2012 consumed about 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, or a daily average of about 5.1 billion, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The European Union consumed about 16.8 trillion cubic feet, an average of about 50 billion a day.

“The situation in Ukraine illustrates why we need to keep pushing aggressively for these projects,” Mike Saccone, a spokesman for Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, said by phone. Udall, Gardner and Representative Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, introduced bills to expand the list of nations that would benefit from a streamlined review for export applications.

Asia Shipments

Dominion expects its Cove Point facility in Maryland, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of Washington, to complete the FERC review early this year. The project has contracts to deliver fuel to Japan and India, according to data from Poten & Partners Inc., a New York-based ship broker.

Sempra is anticipating approval for its Cameron LNG export terminal in Hackberry, Louisiana, by July 1. The facility has contracts for deliveries to Japan and Taiwan.

Cove Point, which may cost as much as $3.8 billion to construct, would start shipping LNG in late 2017. Cameron, a $9 billion to $10 billion project, also would start shipments that year. The plant won’t be in full operation until 2018.

Closely held Freeport LNG Development of Houston in the past year won Energy Department approval to build then expand an export terminal at Quintana Island, Texas. The company, with contracts in Japan and South Korea, expects FERC approval in the second half of this year, according to its website.

Using Crisis

While Energy Transfer Equity LP and London-based BG Group Plc have Energy Department approval for an export facility at Lake Charles, Louisiana, the companies haven’t committed to building the project and haven’t yet filed a formal application with the FERC.

“Using this crisis as an excuse to rapidly and massively expand exports of America’s natural gas won’t help Ukraine now,” Markey said. “What massively exporting America’s natural gas will do is undercut American manufacturers trying to create jobs.”

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