Sempra delays big Texas LNG project as global energy demand slumps

(Reuters) - Sempra Energy SRE.N on Monday said it was delaying a decision to go ahead with a large LNG export project in Texas until 2021, as the coronavirus pandemic cuts global demand for energy.

FILE PHOTO: Sempra Energy headquarters is pictured in downtown San Diego, California, U.S., May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Energy firms around the world have pushed back decisions on liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and other infrastructure projects as global demand for energy has collapsed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Investment demand in LNG has been running high for several years due to heavier consumption from mostly Asian countries diversifying their generation mix away from coal.

The growth rate for LNG use is slowing now, however, and that could cause numerous planned projects to be put on the backburner for some time.

At the start of 2020, about a dozen North American developers said they planned to make final investment decisions on whether to go ahead with new projects by year-end. Some of those projects were delayed from 2019. Now, about half of this year’s slate have been pushed into next year, and analysts said they expect few projects to go ahead in 2020.

One still slated to move forward is Sempra’s Costa Azul LNG export plant in Mexico. The company said it expects to make a final investment decision (FID) on that plant in the second quarter, subject to export permits. The new export facility at its existing Costa Azul LNG import plant, which entered service in 2008.

Sempra said it earned $2.53 per share in the first quarter. It had said that it was targeting a FID on the proposed Port Arthur LNG export plant in Texas in the third quarter.

Sempra said Costa Azul LNG signed 20-year agreements with units of Total SA TOTF.PA and Mitsui & Co 8031.T for about 2.5 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) or 0.33 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of natural gas.

Sempra has said Port Arthur LNG is in talks with units of Saudi Aramco 2222.SE to buy 5 MTPA of LNG and invest 25% equity, and with Polish Oil & Gas Co (PGNiG) PGN.WA to buy 2 MTPA. The initial phase of that project is designed to export about 11 MTPA of LNG.

The energy industry has a long history of delaying decisions on multi-billion dollar LNG projects. By the middle of the decade, however, Sempra said new LNG infrastructure will be needed to support increasing demand.

Shares of Sempra stock were up about 5% to $125.35 in afternoon trade on Monday.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York and Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M, Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown