ConocoPhillips restarts LNG exports from Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:38am EDT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - ConocoPhillips (COP.N) has resumed shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from its Alaska plant, an aged facility that was previously targeted for closure, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The company sent a shipment of LNG last month to Japan, spokeswoman Natalie Lowman said.

ConocoPhillips expects to deliver four or five cargoes of Alaska LNG this year, all of them to Japan, Lowman said. However, she said she could not disclose the customer.

The plant, in the Kenai Peninsula community of Nikiski, is the only LNG export facility in the United States. It began operations in 1969, supplying LNG to Tokyo Gas and Tokyo Electric for most of its operating life.

In early 2011, ConocoPhillips and partner Marathon announced plans to close the facility, citing failure to strike a shipping contract with the Tokyo utilities and difficulties in securing natural gas supplies from the mature Cook Inlet basin.

But new demand for Alaska LNG emerged in the aftermath of Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami last year that wrecked the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

ConocoPhillips in September bought Marathon's 30 percent share in the plant and now has full ownership of the facility.

The LNG plant was closed over the winter. The May shipment was the first since last fall.

Plans for the LNG plant beyond 2012 are unclear, Lowman said.

"It's too early to speculate on what might happen after 2012, but all potential uses for the plant depend on local needs, the volume of Cook Inlet natural gas production, or the availability of a natural gas via a pipeline from the North Slope to Southcentral Alaska," she said in an email.

(Editing by Himani Sarkar)

(This story was officially corrected to fix the estimate for Alaska LNG cargoes this year in third paragraph)

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