Sempra gets DOE export permissions for LNG projects in Mexico

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has granted Sempra Infrastructure’s 4-million tonne/year (tpy) Vista Pacifico LNG plant permission to export natural gas to countries not having a free trade agreement (non-FTA) with the US. DOE granted FTA export authority for both in 2021. It also authorized an increase the volume of previously granted permissions for Sempra to export from its Energia Costa Azul plant. These permissions will remain in place through 2050.

Vista Pacifico in Topolobampo, Sinaloa, on Mexico’s west coast, will include one liquefaction train with a gas pretreatment unit, a 180,000-cu m LNG storage tank, a marine jetty, ground flare equipment, and connective piping and infrastructure. Sempra plans to begin exports in 2027.

The 550 MMcfd of US-sourced natural gas authorized for export by DOE will be sent to Mexico in existing and, potentially, future cross-border natural gas pipelines. In its application for export permission, Sempra noted that current cross-border pipeline capacity totals 14.83 bcfd. The combined capacity of the 42-in. OD Comanche Trail and Trans-Pecos pipelines in West Texas—which interconnect to the Mexican of San Isidro-Samalayuca and Gasoducto Ojinaga pipelines respectively—totals 2.4 bcfd. Sierrita pipeline in Arizona has a capacity of 627 MMcfd and interconnects at the border to the Gasoducto Aguaprieta-Sonora system. Sempra noted that the combined capacity of the three far exceeds Vista Pacifico’s needs.

The 12.4-million tpy Energia Costa Azul plant is under development at Sempra’s existing import terminal in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, along the Pacific Coast. It will use two 6.2-million tpy liquefaction trains. DOE’s earlier export permissions had been based on its initial 9.1-million tpy capacity.

Sempra asserted that this change would require an additional authorization of 182 bcf/year and asked DOE to amend its orders to authorize total exports to 727 bcf/year (1.99 bcfd) to FTA countries, and 636 bcf/year (1.74 bcfd) to non-FTA countries. It also noted that the incremental 440 MMcfd asked for would, like the permission requested for Vista Pacifico, be a fraction of nearby pipelines’ capacity.

Sempra earlier this year signed a non-binding MOU with Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission for a variety of projects, including Vista Pacifico (OGJ Online, Feb. 2, 2022). It received its initial Energia Costa Azul permissions in March 2022.