Biden administration LNG permit freeze puts 13 bcfd of new capacity at risk

Jan. 30, 2024
A dozen proposed US LNG projects, enough to liquefy more than 13 bcfd of natural gas, are potentially at risk following the Biden administration’s decision last week to halt new export authorizations to non-FTA countries.

A dozen proposed US LNG projects, enough to liquefy more than 13 bcfd of natural gas, are potentially at risk following the Biden administration’s decision last week to halt new export authorizations to non-Free Trade Agreement (FTA) countries, based on Oil & Gas Journal’s analysis of data provided by the Center for LNG based on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) docket.

Five of the stalled projects have already received approval from the US Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC), a requirement before DOE can review an export permit application. Two others are awaiting FERC approval.

The White House last week ordered a halt of new export authorizations while the US DOE beefs up its review process to consider the climate and economic effects of greater exports.

The US was poised to expand LNG exports to meet an anticipated near doubling of demand in China, as well as significant demand growth in Northeast Asia and South Asia. But many of those projects are on ice until at least after this year’s presidential elections as DOE sets up a new process and reviews the export applications.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-DC think tank, Monday said it expected the Biden administration’s export authorization freeze to have “commercial ramifications” throughout the industry. “It is possible that LNG buyers will turn their attention from projects now in limbo to those that are already fully permitted by FERC and the DOE,” said Senior Fellow Ben Cahill and Director Joseph Majkut, both of CSIS’s Energy Security and Climate Change program.

They noted that current LNG exports and projects under construction will not be affected. The US, already the world’s largest LNG exporter, surpassing Qatar and Australia last year, has five major LNG export projects under construction that will nearly double its LNG export capacity by the end of the decade. The projects under construction, with a combined total of 9.7 bcfd of export capacity. are Golden Pass (ExxonMobil Corp., QatarEnergy; 15.6 million tonnes/year (tpy)), Plaquemines (Venture Global LNG Inc., 20 million tpy), Corpus Christi Stage III (Cheniere Energy Inc., 10 million tpy), Rio Grande (Next Decade Corp., 17.6 million tpy) and Port Arthur (Sempra Infrastructure, 13 million tpy), they said, adding that both Golden Pass and Plaquemines are expected to begin operation in 2024.

FERC-approved, awaiting DOE export authorization

FERC-approved LNG projects awaiting DOE export authorization, according to the Center for LNG, are:

Commonwealth LNG’s request to export 1.21 bcfd (9.3 million tpy) from its plant on the west bank of the Calcasieu Ship Channel at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico near Cameron, La. Commonwealth, which has reached agreement to sell about half its anticipated capacity, in September 2023 said it anticipated making a final investment decision on the project in first-quarter 2024, with first deliveries expected in 2027 (OGJ Online, Sept. 5, 2023).

Sempra's Port Arthur, Texas, LNG's Phase 2 expansion, which has been waiting since 2020 for DOE permission to export up to 1.91 bcfd (13.5 million tpy).

Venture Global’s application to export another 0.057 bcfd related to a design increase at its 1.3-bcfd Calcasieu Pass LNG plant.

Energy Transfer LP’s request to export 2.33 bcfd from its Lake Charles LNG plant. The company reapplied to DOE for export authorization in August 2023 after its original permit expired without project completion.

Glenfarne Group LLC's Magnolia LNG November 2023 application to export up to 1.23 bcfd from its yet-to-be-built Lake Charles, La., plant.

Awaiting approval

Two LNG projects still awaiting FERC approval before DOE could act on existing export applications belong to Venture Global and Cheniere. 

Venture Global LNG’s CP2 plant is part of a 20-million tpy expansion of its existing Calcasieu Pass plant. Venture Global filed last year for FERC authorization to put Blocks 7-9 of the original plant in service and is seeking DOE’s approval to export 1.5 bcfd (28 million tpy), provided it receives FERC construction approval (OGJ Online, Oct. 12, 2023).

Cheniere’s Midscale Trains 8 and 9 project lies adjacent to the company’s existing Corpus Christi LNG plant. Cheniere is seeking DOE export authority for nearly 0.5 bcfd, pending FERC approval of the project.

Both projects are subject to the DOE indefinite pause on LNG export permits.

Five other LNG projects in the queue for export authorizations are stymied as well, Center for LNG data shows. 

Venture Global’s Plaquemines LNG in March 2022 requested DOE’s permission to export up to 0.45 bcfd from the Louisiana plant.

New Fortress Energy Inc.’s proposed deepwater port and plant off Grand Isle, La. requested a DOE permit to export up to 0.4 bcfd.

New Fortress's Altamira floating LNG plant is seeking LNG export permission for 0.43 bcfd from a proposed  project off the coast of Mexico.

Gulf Stream LNG Development LLC requested authorization for 0.65 bcfd of exports from its proposed plant in Plaquemines Parish, La.

Southern LNG in September 2023 asked for DOE permission to export an additional 0.08 bcfd from its existing Elba Island terminal in Chatham County, Ga.