Kinder Morgan says 7th Georgia Elba LNG export plant unit ready

(Reuters) - Kinder Morgan Inc asked U.S. energy regulators on Monday for permission to put the seventh liquefaction train in service at its nearly $2 billion Elba Island liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant in Georgia.

Kinder Morgan said Train 8 would be ready for service on July 13, according to a filing with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Trains 1-6 were already in service, with Train 1 entering service in October and Train 6 in April. Each train is capable of liquefying about 0.3 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of LNG.

The company said Unit 7 was still in various stages of commissioning.

“Historically, we have not placed all of the units in service in sequential order, but we are still expecting to place all of the remaining units in service before the end of the summer,” said Katherine Hill, a spokeswoman at Kinder Morgan.

The first export cargo from Elba left in December. Elba, however, has not exported a cargo since January as government steps to reduce the spread of coronavirus have cut global energy demand.

Elba, which is 51% owned by units of Kinder Morgan and 49% by EIG Global Energy Partners, is designed to liquefy about 2.5 MTPA of LNG, equivalent to around 0.350 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of natural gas.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc has a 20-year contract to use the facility.

Including projects under construction, U.S. LNG export capacity is expected to rise to 9.8 bcfd by the end of 2020 and 10.5 bcfd by the end of 2021 from 9.7 bcfd currently.

That keeps the United States on track to become the world’s biggest LNG exporter in 2024. It became the third-biggest LNG exporter in 2019, behind Qatar and Australia.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Dan Grebler and Richard Chang