U.S. approves commercial service for Sempra Louisiana Cameron LNG export plant

(Reuters) - U.S. energy regulators on Friday approved Sempra Energy’s request to commence commercial service of the first liquefaction train at its $10 billion Cameron liquefied natural gas export (LNG) terminal in Louisiana.

The plant exported its first cargo in May, making it the fourth big LNG export terminal operating in the United States. In total, the facility has exported four cargoes, according to data firm Refinitiv.

Natural gas use is growing fast around the world as countries wean their industrial and power sectors off coal as they seek cleaner forms of energy. Gas emits about half the carbon dioxide of coal when burned.

There are three liquefaction trains at Cameron. The first started producing LNG in mid May. Sempra has said it expects Cameron 2 and 3 will enter service in the first and second quarters of 2020.

Cameron is designed to produce about 12 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of LNG, or roughly 1.7 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of natural gas. One billion cubic feet of gas is enough to fuel about 5 million U.S. homes for a day.

When the United States sent out its first LNG cargo from Cheniere Energy Inc’s Sabine Pass export terminal in Louisiana in February 2016, the country was not exporting any of the fuel.

Since then, the United States became the world’s fourth biggest LNG exporter in 2018, behind Qatar, Australia and Malaysia, and is on track to overtake Malaysia and become the third biggest in 2019. By the mid 2020s, analysts expect the United States will become the biggest LNG exporter in the world.

Just looking at terminals under construction, U.S. LNG export capacity is expected to jump to 7.2 bcfd by the end of 2019 and 9.9 bcfd in 2020 from 6.3 bcfd now.

Cameron is owned by affiliates of Sempra, Total SA, Mitsui & Co Ltd, and Japan LNG Investment LLC, a company jointly owned by Mitsubishi Corp and Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK). Sempra indirectly owns 50.2% of Cameron.

McDermott International Inc and Chiyoda Corp are the lead contractors at Cameron.

Sempra has a long-term goal of exporting 45 MTPA of North American LNG and is developing a second two-train phase at Cameron, the Port Arthur LNG export terminal in Texas and plans to add export facilities in two phases at its existing Costa Azul LNG import terminal in Baja California in Mexico.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Susan Thomas