Energy infrastructure giant Kinder Morgan filed a request with federal regulators Friday to start the first of 10 planned liquefaction units on Elba Island on Aug. 16.
“The Balance of Plant (“BOP”), Terminal Upgrade (“TU”) and Movable Modular Liquefaction System No. 1 (“MMLS #1″) facilities will be ready to place in-service on August 16, 2019,” Kinder Morgan’s Tina S. Hardy wrote in her letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The FERC authorized the $2 billion Elba expansion project in June of 2016. Construction began on Nov. 1, 2016, and is supported by a 20-year contract with Shell. The project uses a new technology, developed by Shell, called Movable Modular Liquefaction System. When finished there will be 10 small-scale liquefaction units, called trains.
The existing import facility on Elba Island, a river island about five miles downstream from Savannah City Hall, opened in 1978 and closed in 1980 after then-owner El Paso had a contract dispute with its supplier. Elba reopened in 2001 and expanded to five its storage tanks. But as fracking increased, domestic natural gas production prices plummeted and imports slowed. Owners Kinder Morgan and EIG Global Energy Partners are expanding Elba to take advantage of this situation and begin export from Savannah. Natural gas will be piped into the facility in its gaseous state, cooled to minus 260 degrees F to liquefy it, and that shrunken volume of LNG will then be loaded onto specially designed tankers.
“Kinder Morgan is entering the final stages of the testing and approval process for the first unit at its Elba Island Liquefaction facility,” spokeswoman Katherine Hill wrote in an email. “We expect it will be in service soon.”
Kinder Morgan is one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in North America. Its Elba expansion is behind its original schedule, which called for the first of the new units to be in service by the end of 2018. It later moved the start-up for the first unit to May 2019, then encountered problems with cooling the gas in the first liquefaction unit.
The company received permission from the U.S. Department of Energy late last month to export up to 1.53 billion cubic feet a day of LNG from a proposed second facility, its Gulf LNG project in Pascagoula, Miss. Like Elba, that proposed facility now has permission to export LNG to non-free trade agreement nations such as China, Japan, South Korea and France where commodity prices are higher than other markets.