Cheniere Energy Inc. told US regulators it has the commercial support it needs to build two midscale natural gas liquefaction trains at its Corpus Christi export plant, which would add 3.28 million metric tons per year of production capacity.
The biggest US LNG exporter filed a formal application on March 30 at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the expansion at the Texas facility, asking FERC to approve the project by Sept. 27, 2024, so that the company could begin construction soon after (CP23-129).
In pitching the project to FERC, Cheniere pointed to strong global LNG market demand continuing to drive commercial momentum. The company said it considered commercialization efforts to be "substantially complete, with a majority of LNG export volumes from the project facilities committed via long-term LNG sales contracts."
Cheniere sought authorization to place the proposed facilities at Corpus Christi in service by 2031 "to accommodate the potential for phasing, schedule changes or other unforeseen disruptions," but it said the project could come online sooner.
"If constructed under optimal conditions, the construction duration is anticipated to be four years," Cheniere said.
The project, which Cheniere had outlined to FERC in an August 2022 pre-application filing, is part of the company's broader plans to leverage its existing infrastructure to pursue large capacity increases, potentially crowding out rival US projects that have yet to reach a final investment decision after a wave of contracting activity tied to US supplies over the past year.
Sabine Pass project
Cheniere in February also told US regulators it plans to file a permit application by the end of 2023 for a 20-MMt/y expansion of its flagship Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Louisiana. That project, which Cheniere has said would be built in stages, would entail three large trains. The company told FERC that it expected to start construction on the Sabine Pass expansion in late 2025 with a "longstop date" for full in-service in the second half of 2032, although individual trains may enter service sooner (PF23-2).
Cheniere executives said they did not view a potentially lengthy permitting process as an impediment to marketing supplies, with commercialization efforts already underway.
"By them announcing an expansion they are really trying to help their position in the US relative to competitors who are looking towards [a final investment decision]," Ira Joseph, global fellow at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy, said in a recent interview. Joseph noted that Cheniere's status as a major LNG producer gives the company a competitive advantage.
A seven-train midscale expansion at Corpus Christi that will add roughly 10 MMt/y of production is already under construction after Cheniere commercially sanctioned that project in June 2022.
Cheniere in February told investors its deal-making in 2022 extended beyond the under-construction Corpus Christi expansion, and the company had almost 3 MMt/y that it can convert, at its option, to sale and purchase agreements.
Cheniere told FERC that adding the eighth and ninth midscale trains would require increasing the authorized loading rate for LNG carriers at the Corpus Christi terminal from 400 vessels per year to 480 vessels per year.
Feedgas would be provided by a combination of existing pipeline facilities and the Texas intrastate ADCC pipeline, a 40-mile, 1.7-Bcf/d line that will transport gas from the Agua Dulce natural gas hub and is expected to enter service in 2024, according to the Cheniere application.
"Long-term projections continue to affirm that domestic natural gas production will both increase and outpace domestic demand, allowing for increased natural gas exports," Cheniere said.
S&P Global Commodity Insights reporter Corey Paul produces content for distribution on Platts Dimensions Pro.