First U.S. Shale Gas Exports Imminent
Asia Vision LNG tanker docks at Cheniere's export terminal.
A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker on Sunday docked at the Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana, with only days to go before the United States ships its first export cargo of seaborne gas from the lower 48 states.
U.S. exports will add to a wave of supply coming from Australian projects at a time when demand falters in major consuming countries and prices have plummeted in line with oil.
Expected to become an importer of LNG until just a few years ago, the shale gas revolution in the United States that unlocked cheap, abundant supplies has wreaked havoc on global gas markets as LNG meant for the country was redirected around the world.
Set to load the first shale gas to export markets, the Asia Vision LNG tanker docked at Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass LNG terminal on Sunday, Reuters shiptracking data showed.
The tanker arrived in December in the Gulf of Mexico, but has been anchored off the coast of the terminal after the first shipment from the facility was delayed due to mechanical problems.
Cheniere said it expected its first cargo to leave the facility by the end of this month or in early March.
"We will export the first cargo shortly. Touch wood, it'll be at the end of February or in early March," Andrew Walker, Cheniere Energy's vice president for strategy, said during an energy industry event in Germany last week.
The company initially intended Sabine Pass as an LNG import terminal but will draw on shale gas production for exports instead.
First exports from Sabine Pass comes within days of the world's most expensive LNG plant - the $54 billion Gorgon project in Australia - shipping its first cargo.
"The timing is incredible," said Bernstein analyst Neil Beveridge.
Companies including Chevron Corp, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil Corp have invested some $180 billion in seven Australian LNG export plants ramping up production from 2015 to 2017, making the country the top exporter of the fuel ahead of Qatar.
"Sabine Pass will just add to the global oversupply," said Beveridge, although he expects the facility to run below capacity for the time being because of weak demand and low prices.
Four other U.S. projects have already broken ground, including Dominion Resources' Cove Point plant in Maryland expected in 2017, Sempra Energy's Cameron LNG in Louisiana and Freeport LNG's plant in Texas expected in 2018, and Cheniere's Corpus Christi plant in Texas in 2019.
Once operational, Sabine Pass will be the first LNG export terminal outside of Alaska. The United States has been exporting LNG mostly to Japan from Alaska since 1969.
Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen