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King Creole - The 'Big Three' of U.S. LNG Look to Press Their Advantage, Push More Projects to FID

Three new LNG export projects have reached a final investment decision (FID) in the past year or so — Venture Global’s Plaquemines LNG, Cheniere’s Corpus Christi Stage III expansion, and, most recently, Sempra’s Port Arthur LNG. What do these projects have in common? They are all being developed by companies that are already exporting North American LNG. These companies are arguably the “Big Three” of U.S. LNG, with Cheniere the reigning king, at least for now. Not only do they all have at least one operating terminal and at least one under construction, but all three have multiple pre-FID projects under development, including some that are decently close to FID. With their proven track records and deep balance sheets, being one of the big guys is a definite advantage when it comes to getting a project across the finish line. With a total of 43.5 MMtpa (5.8 Bcf/d) of capacity currently under construction and more than 100 MMtpa (13.4 Bcf/d) under development by these three, is there even room for anybody else? In today’s blog, we look at the pre-FID projects under development by the Big Three, starting with Sempra.

With global energy markets bouncing back in 2021 and 2022, and Europe’s energy fallout from the Ukraine war, there is a new wave of interest in developing U.S. LNG. After a deep lull and a lack of progress due to oversupplied markets in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, existing terminals are operating above their contracted levels, new projects are being announced, and long-term capacity is being sold. Many projects have begun to progress and appear to be headed toward an FID, but so far, only the Big Three have been able to actually make it. RBN first broached the dominance of these three companies back in December (see We Three Kings), at which point Venture Global had already taken FID on Plaquemines Phase 1, as had Cheniere on Corpus Christi Stage III. High interest rates, cooling global prices, and regulatory uncertainty (see Life in the Fast Lane for more on recent rule changes) have dampened enthusiasm — or at least slowed progress — for many projects that had appeared close to FID last year. But Cheniere, Venture Global and Sempra have continued to make progress on their projects, and in the case of Cheniere, have announced new ones, even as projects by others have stalled. Since our December blog, Venture Global took FID on Plaquemines Phase 2 and Sempra on Port Arthur. Beyond these FIDs, each of these companies has continued to advance its next round of projects as well.

Sempra currently has one terminal operating, Cameron LNG (solid purple diamond in Figure 1 below) in Louisiana. The three-train terminal can export 12 MMtpa (1.59 Bcf/d) of LNG. In addition to Cameron, Sempra currently has two FID projects under construction — Port Arthur LNG (striped orange diamond), the most recent U.S. project to reach FID, and ECA LNG (striped blue diamond), the only North American LNG project to take FID in 2020. The ECA LNG terminal will consist of a single, 2.5-MMtpa (0.33 Bcf/d) train in Baja California on the Pacific coast of Mexico and is expected to begin producing LNG in 2025. This will be Mexico’s first LNG export terminal, at least on land, as New Fortress Energy’s Altamira floating LNG (FLNG) project is expected to come online later this year. ECA LNG is underpinned by tolling agreements with TotalEnergies and Mitsui (see Figure 2 for details). Sempra’s next U.S. terminal will be Port Arthur LNG (for more on Port Arthur see Jump in the Line, Part 5) in southeastern Texas. Sempra took FID on Phase 1 of the terminal in March. The project will consist of two large trains with a combined nameplate capacity of 13.5 MMtpa (1.8 Bcf/d). It is expected to begin producing LNG in 2027.

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