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November gas flows to US LNG plants offered outlet for robust production

Total daily natural gas flows to the six operational U.S. LNG export facilities averaged nearly 7.1 Bcf/d in November as the ramp-up in U.S. export capacity continued, according to pipeline flow data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

That average feedgas delivery amounted to nearly 8% of the natural gas the U.S. produces on average every day. Besides providing a key outlet for surging natural gas production amid low Henry Hub gas prices, rising levels of feedgas support the availability of U.S. LNG to serve global demand during the winter.

The U.S. LNG export capacity is on track to top 7 Bcf/d by early 2020, a figure that stands to increase as new liquefaction units come online. The continuing ramp-up was evident in November.

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Flows to the Sempra Energy-led Cameron LNG in Louisiana, which entered commercial service in August, ended the month around 0.66 Bcf/d. Average flows to the facility in November were about 0.53 Bcf/d.

In early December, Cameron LNG began flowing feedgas to the second of three liquefaction trains. The first train started LNG production May 14 and shipped the first commissioning cargo a little over two weeks later. All three trains are expected to be online by mid-2020, bringing the estimated total capacity of the terminal to 12 million tonnes per annum.

In Georgia, Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Elba Island LNG received average feedgas deliveries in November of nearly 0.06 Bcf/d as the terminal prepared to ship its long-awaited initial cargo. Elba Island is by far the smallest of the major U.S. LNG facilities, with an LNG production capacity of 2.5 mtpa once all 10 of its modular trains are online.

Kinder Morgan, which has reported some hiccups during the commissioning process, announced the start of commercial service on the first train following approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in late September. The facility started producing LNG in July.

Kinder Morgan and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the backer of Elba Island LNG under a 20-year off-take agreement, have not revealed plans about the timing for the first cargo. But an LNG tanker that was still moored at the facility Dec. 11 could soon end up carrying the first cargo.

In Texas, flows to the Freeport LNG Development LP facility averaged nearly 0.4 Bcf/d in November and peaked at more than 0.73 Bcf/d early in the month.

A dip in feedgas flows during the middle of November coincided with the ongoing commissioning work. Flows ended the month closer to 0.6 Bcf/d. On Dec. 6, construction contractors announced that the facility's second of three trains had started LNG production.

The first train at Freeport LNG shipped the first commissioning cargo Sept. 3, less than a month the terminal started LNG production. The third train is expected to start up in May. The terminal will be able to produce about 15.3 mtpa once all three trains are online.

As it stands, Cheniere Energy Inc. remains by far the biggest exporter of LNG in the U.S. November feedgas flows to the company's Sabine Pass LNG terminal, where five trains are online and a sixth is under construction, averaged about 3.92 Bcf/d. At Cheniere's newer Corpus Christi LNG plant in Texas, flows averaged nearly 1.37 Bcf/d. Cheniere operates two trains at Corpus Christi LNG, and a third train is under construction.

In Maryland, Dominion Energy Inc.'s Cove Point LNG has one liquefaction train capable of producing 5.25 mtpa. November flows to Cove Point averaged nearly 0.79 Bcf/d.

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