(Repeats to widen distribution)
By Scott DiSavino
March 27 (Reuters) - Sempra Energy is working aggressively to become one of the biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporters in North America, the California energy company’s Chief Executive Jeff Martin told Reuters on Wednesday.
Sempra is developing five projects - Cameron phases 1 and 2 in Louisiana, Port Arthur in Texas and Costa Azul phases 1 and 2 in Baja California in Mexico - totaling about 45 million tonnes per annum (MTPA), or roughly 6 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas.
One billion cubic feet of gas is enough to supply about 5 million U.S. homes.
If Sempra builds all 45 MTPA of capacity, it could become the second biggest North American LNG exporter behind current market leader Cheniere Energy Inc, which is expanding its two operating LNG export terminals in the United States.
“We are going to move aggressively to unlock these five projects over the next three to five years,” Martin said, noting demand for the super-cooled fuel was expected to rocket higher as consumers transition from dirty coal to cleaner natural gas.
The first 12-MTPA phase at the $10 billion Cameron project is already under construction.
Martin said Sempra expects to complete the first liquefaction train at Cameron in the second quarter, Train 2 in the fourth quarter and Train 3 in the first quarter of 2020. The company noted the trains will start producing LNG before they are commercially complete.
Martin said Sempra and its partners at Cameron - Mitsubishi Corp, Mitsui & Co Ltd and Total SA - are working on a study for the 8-MTPA phase 2 expansion of the facility.
At the 12-MTPA Port Arthur, Martin said Sempra has a “big marketing effort to see if we can get sufficient contracts to reach a final investment decision by the first quarter of 2020” that will enable to project to get financing to go to construction.
Sempra already has a contract to sell 2 MTPA of LNG from Port Arthur to Polish oil and gas company Polskie Górnictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo SA (PGNiG).
In Mexico, Sempra wants to build an export terminal in two phases at its Costa Azul LNG import facility.
“Costa Azul is a complete game changer,” Martin said, noting it is the only facility on the West Coast of North America that will enable customers to ship Permian shale gas from West Texas across northern Mexico and reach markets in Asia in 12 days.
“That is half the transit time it takes to send LNG from the U.S. Gulf Coast,” Martin said. Most of the dozens of other proposed LNG projects are located along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker