NextDecade says it will still decide this year on Texas LNG export project

(Reuters) - U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) developer NextDecade Corp said on Monday it still planned to make a final investment decision (FID) in 2020 to build its proposed Rio Grande LNG export plant in Texas.

NextDecade said in a filing late on Friday with U.S. securities regulators that it would delay the release of its quarterly earnings report until around May 18 from the original deadline of May 11.

In that filing, the company also added a COVID-19 risk factor to comply with federal guidance. That risk factor described the possible impacts of the pandemic on its business, including a delay to the FID.

“The company did not provide an update on our project’s FID timing” in its filing on Friday, NextDecade spokeswoman Toni Beck said in an email.

NextDecade has a contract with engineering firm Bechtel to build two liquefaction trains for $7.042 billion or three trains for $9.565 billion. Each train can produce about 5.87 million tonnes per annum of LNG or about 0.77 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. NextDecade expects the project to enter service in 2023.

Several other North American LNG developers, meanwhile, have delayed their export projects as government lockdowns to stop the spread of the coronavirus cut global demand for natural gas and other forms of energy.

Over the past couple of weeks, Sempra Energy delayed its decision to build its proposed Port Arthur LNG export plant in Texas until 2021. Cheniere Energy Inc, the biggest U.S. LNG producer, meanwhile, signaled it may not make a FID to expand its Corpus Christi export plant in Texas until 2021.

At the start of this year, 12 companies, including Sempra and Cheniere, said they planned to make FIDs in 2020. Currently, that total is down to just a handful, including NextDecade. Analysts said they expect only one or two of those projects to actually go forward this year.

Shares of NextDecade closed 2.7% lower at $1.46.

In mid-2019, a dozen North American developers, including NextDecade, said they planned to make FIDs by the end of the year. But none of those projects are under construction. All those FIDs were delayed until 2020 or later.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Matthew Lewis