LNG 101: Terminals: Operating & Under Construction

Editor’s note: This is the sixth of a 10-part series produced by the Alaska Support Industry Alliance to educate the public about liquefied natural gas.

As of October 2013, there are 32 on-stream LNG liquefaction plants in the world, with 13 under construction and 17 others planned. There are 96 on-stream regasification terminals, with 18 under construction and 25 others planned.

The global list of regasification terminals in the planning stage has shrunk from an all-time high of 47 to 25 in the last year, as several potential projects have either been suspended or canceled. Liquefaction plants in the planning stage were reduced from 21 to 17 in the same time period.

Australia and Malaysia each have three on-stream LNG liquefaction plants. Qatar leads the way with six. Australia is poised to surpass Qatar with seven new plants under construction and six more in the planning phase.

New Australian projects have been getting approved at a quick pace. More than $180 billion worth of LNG export projects are now being built, putting the country on track to quadruple its LNG exports by the end of the decade.

Upon completion of the $34 billion Ichthys project, Australia is positioned to overtake Qatar as the world’s top exporter of LNG by 2017.

Australia’s first LNG project began in 1980 when six major producers united to form the North West Shelf Venture, or NWSV. Located north of Perth, and with capital expenditures of about $27 billion, the project was commissioned in 1984 for domestic supply, followed in 1989 by the first shipment of LNG to Japan. The NWSV project represents Australia’s largest oil and gas resource development and currently accounts for more than 40 percent of Australia’s oil and gas production.

Japan leads the way for on-stream regasification terminals with 28. They also have three under construction and two others in the planning phase.

China has six on-stream regasification terminals with eight under construction.

The United States has 11 on-stream regasification terminals with none currently under construction and only two in the planning phase. Eleven U.S. projects that were in the planning phase have either been canceled or suspended.

In the United States, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is responsible for authorizing the location and construction of onshore and near-shore LNG import or export facilities under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act.

The Commission also issues certificates of public convenience and necessity for LNG facilities engaged in interstate natural gas transportation by pipeline. As required by the National Environmental Policy Act, FERC prepares environmental assessments or impact statements for proposed LNG terminals.

According to the FERC website, “there are more than 110 LNG facilities operating in the U.S. performing a variety of services. Some facilities export natural gas from the U.S., some provide natural gas supply to the interstate pipeline system or local distribution companies, while others are used to store natural gas for periods of peak demand. There are also facilities which produce LNG for vehicle fuel or for industrial use. Depending on location and use, an LNG facility may be regulated by several federal agencies and by state utility regulatory agencies.”

LNG terminals that are approved and built are subject to FERC oversight for as long as the facility is in operation. FERC currently regulates 24 operational LNG facilities in the United States.

In April 2012, Charif Souki, the chief executive of Cheniere Energy, told the Financial Times, “This is the beginning. It is the dawn of the global significance of North America as a gas exporter,” in regard to their Sabine Pass project on the Gulf of Mexico.

Cheniere has already signed deals with companies in the United Kingdom, Spain, India and Korea to take a total of 16 million tons of LNG per year, equivalent to about 89 percent of Sabine Pass’s planned maximum capacity.

Cheniere is expecting Sabine Pass to deliver its first LNG cargo late in 2015.

The push for more LNG terminals in some countries, while others are suspending or canceling projects is certainly one indicator of the sensitivities surrounding the LNG market.

In our next issue, we’ll look at the role LNG is expected to play in world energy supplies.

11/14/2013 - 8:06am