April 15, 2008 / 6:47 PM / 10 years ago

First tanker docks at new Texas LNG port

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The first tanker load of liquefied natural gas arrived Tuesday at the new Freeport LNG import terminal on the Texas Gulf Coast, a spokeswoman said.

The tanker Excelsior, loaded in Nigeria, arrived at midday and will begin unloading LNG Thursday to prepare Freeport for commercial start-up by June 1, spokeswoman Janet Faz said.

The terminal is one of three new U.S. LNG import facilities receiving first cargoes this month.

Denver oilman Michael Smith owns 45 percent of the $1-billion terminal, which will be able to send up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day to market.

Cheniere Energy Inc owns 30 percent, Texas Holdings (owned by Dow Chemical Co) 15 percent and Japan’s Osaka Gas Co Ltd 10 percent.

Conoco Phillips Inc has bought two-thirds of the plant’s total capacity, with the remaining third committed to Dow.

Pipes, tanks and other equipment at new LNG terminals must be cooled gradually before full operation because of the frigid temperature of the energy-rich cargo handled.

LNG is gas cooled at overseas production facilities to -260 degrees Fahrenheit to liquefy it for shipment overseas beyond the reach of pipelines.

The other two new U.S. terminals nearing operation are Sabine Pass LNG, 100 miles northeast of Freeport in Louisiana, and Northeast Gateway offshore of Boston, Massachusetts.

Cheniere-owned Sabine Pass received its first cargo Friday. Northeast Gateway, owned by Excelerate Energy LLC, is to receive its first cargo around Wednesday, analysts said.

Reporting by Bruce Nichols

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