CEO: DOE’s permit pause will not slow down Cheniere’s LNG expansion plans

US LNG exporting giant Cheniere is going “full steam ahead” with plans to expand its Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi LNG terminals despite a recent move by the Biden administration to pause pending decisions for LNG export terminals, according to Cheniere’s CEO, Jack Fusco.

The Biden administration and the Department of Energy (DOE) announced last month, that the DOE will temporarily pause review and approval of all new and pending applications for export authorization to non-free trade agreement (non-FTA) countries while DOE updates its assessment process.

“While this decision does not currently impact our expansion projects or our FERC processes at Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi, it does introduce regulatory and permitting uncertainty into the US LNG industry as a whole,” Fusco said on Thursday during Cheniere’s 2023 results call.

“I firmly believe that a fair and transparent regulatory framework is essential for the future development of natural gas infrastructure in the United States, particularly liquefaction capacity, given the scale of investment, commercial support, and time required to bring these projects online,” he said.

Fusco said the company believes it would secure all necessary regulatory approvals for Corpus Christi mid-scale trains 8 and 9, and the SPL expansion project within its expected timelines, as “we have for more than a decade under multiple administrations.”

“To be clear, the DOE action has not slowed down our expansion projects at either site. We are full steam ahead on Corpus Christi trains 8 and 9 and the SPL expansion project development. We expect to file the FERC application for SPL very soon, and Corpus Christi trains 8 and 9 are in advanced stages in the FERC approval process,” he said.

Fusco said the environmental assessment for trains 8 and 9 is scheduled for receipt by the end of March, and the company just received a letter of determination from PHMSA, a key agency in the FERC process last week.

“We remain confident that our previous timelines won’t be materially impacted and we will maximize the efficiency with having Bechtel on site already through Stage 3,” he said.

FIDs in 2025 and 2026?

Cheniere is the largest LNG exporter in the US.

The company’s Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana currently has a capacity of about 30 mtpa following the launch of the sixth train in February 2022, while Cheniere’s three-train Corpus Christi plant in Texas can produce about 15 mtpa of LNG and is undergoing expansion to add more than 10 mtpa of capacity.

Cheniere’s unit Corpus Christi Liquefaction said in the December construction report filed with the US FERC that overall project completion for the Stage 3 project is 51.4 percent.

The company expects to achieve first LNG production from the first train at the end of 2024.

Besides this expansion, Cheniere plans to build two more liquefaction trains as part of the third expansion phase at the Corpus Christi plant.

The firm’s results show that it aims to take a final investment decision on CCL midscale trains 8 and 9 in 2025, subject to regulatory approvals.

In addition, Cheniere also aims to build two new liquefaction trains as part of the Sabine Pass Stage 5 expansion project to add up to 20 mtpa of capacity to the giant facility.

Cheniere plans to take FID on this project in 2026, subject to regulatory approvals.

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