New U.S. LNG export approvals face long wait - Cheniere Energy

Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:41pm EST

* Companies must receive approval from DOE, FERC

* FERC process takes 12 to 18 months -Cheniere exec

* FERC review far more costly and in-depth than DOE

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON, Nov 13 (Reuters) - The United States will not fully permit additional liquefied natural gas export projects before late 2013 or 2014, a Cheniere Energy Inc executive said on Tuesday.

Regardless of how soon the Obama administration makes a decision on expanding exports, it will likely take 12 to 18 months for companies to make it through the complicated permitting process at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said Davis Thames, president of marketing at Cheniere.

"The timeline for a FERC certificate is a long process, it's not something that happens in a week or month," Thames said on the sidelines of the IHS Herold Pacesetters Energy Conference.

Companies have been lining up to get the green light to sell U.S. natural gas abroad, as abundant shale gas supplies place the country in a position to become a net gas exporter.

So far, Cheniere's Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana is the only project that has received necessary permits from both the Energy Department and FERC to allow natural gas exports.

The company began construction on the Sabine export project in August and expects to bring the terminal on line in late 2015.

Natural gas exports to all but a handful of countries with free trade agreements require approval from the Energy Department. Projects must also receive a permit from FERC.

After approving Cheniere's project, the department said it would hold off on allowing any more exports until a study on the economic effects of exports was completed.

The release of this study has been repeatedly delayed and is now scheduled to be issued before the end of this year.

Thames said he eventually expects more permits to be granted by the Energy Department, but projects have to also complete the FERC review, a more expensive and in-depth process that focuses on the safety and technical aspects of export terminals.

Cheniere expects to spend about $100 million to prepare a FERC application for its second export project, at Corpus Christi, Thames said.

It only costs companies about $20,000 to prepare a gas export application for the Energy Department, he said.