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Steppin' Out With My (LNG), Part 3 - The Rise of U.S. Feedgas Demand in 2019

After a period of delays, commissioning activity at the newest U.S. LNG export terminals is poised to accelerate in the coming months, in turn bringing on incremental feedgas demand. Sempra’s Cameron LNG has said it’s ready to introduce feedgas to its fuel system and is awaiting federal approval. Meanwhile, liquefaction projects at Kinder Morgan’s Elba Island LNG and Freeport LNG terminals are gearing up to take feedgas in the next month or so. Feedgas deliveries to the operating export facilities in the past seven days have averaged 5.5 Bcf/d. These three projects alone are slated to add another 1.2 Bcf/d of incremental feedgas demand by July, bringing the total to 6.7 Bcf/d by then, if all goes well. In today’s blog, we continue examining the status and timing of LNG export projects in 2019, this time with a closer look at the Cameron, Elba and Freeport projects.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the various systems involved in the liquefaction and export process and what it takes to bring a train online, using Train 1 at Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG (SPL) terminal in Cameron Parish, LA, as an example of how the various commissioning stages correlate to the ramp-up of feedgas demand. Since Train 1 began full operations in February 2016, Cheniere has brought online four more trains at SPL, including Train 5 a couple of weeks ago, as well as Train 1 at its new Corpus Christi LNG (CCL) facility. The general timeline for commissioning Cheniere’s trains has been anywhere from 200 to 260 or so days from the first indications of start-up activity (such as introducing fuel gas, for example).

It takes about 60 days or so before feedgas can be first introduced, as the initial work involves testing the variety of ancillary systems that support the main train. Then it may be another 80-100 days before feedgas volumes approach train capacity and become more consistent, a sign that first LNG production and the first commissioning cargo from the train is imminent. After the first cargo, feedgas flows can again become sporadic or stop completely as a partial or full shutdown is needed to make repairs and modifications. Once those issues are resolved and the facility comes back online, however, feedgas flows tend to be more or less consistent and run near train capacity and cargoes become more frequent. That said, it can still be 50-100 days more after the first cargo loads before the train is deemed substantially complete and approved to begin full operations. And this entire process can be further complicated by other factors, such as regulatory hiccups or the timing of related pipeline projects designed to supply the feedgas for the train.

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