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Cheniere swaps in midscale project to boost size of Corpus Christi expansion

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Cheniere swaps in midscale project to boost size of Corpus Christi expansion

Cheniere Energy Inc. decided to replace a proposed two-train expansion at its LNG export terminal in Corpus Christi, Texas, with seven smaller trains from a midscale project that the company unveiled as a possibility in November 2016.

With the significant change in the design of the Stage 3 expansion project, which is in prefiling review at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, seven smaller liquefaction trains would increase the project's overall throughput capacity from the 9 million tonnes per annum in the original plan to 9.5 mtpa.

Corpus Christi Liquefaction LLC and Corpus Christi Pipeline LP said there would be no change in the project footprint or pipeline route as a result of the changes. The companies brought up the design change in an Oct. 4 meeting with FERC that was also attended by representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. FERC posted the meeting notes on Oct. 10.

The Cheniere companies told FERC they will notify other agencies involved in the project review of the proposed changes within the next two weeks. They said they intend to file a formal application for the expansion in the first quarter of 2018. Cheniere said it will update its LNG export applications with the DOE. (FERC docket PF15-26)

In June 2015, the Cheniere companies asked FERC to start the commission's early review process for the Stage 3 project. At that point, the project consisted of two additional natural gas liquefaction trains that would have nearly doubled the capacity of the Corpus Christi LNG export project. Two trains are already under construction at the site. A third train is fully permitted but waiting a final investment decision.

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Cheniere said it was considering a midscale LNG project in November 2016.

Source: Cheniere Energy Inc.

Executives said in a November 2016 conference call that Cheniere was considering developing a midscale LNG project that would allow the company to ramp up small, incremental volumes as it brings modular trains online, without revealing a location for the project. Unlike the liquefaction trains at the company's flagship Sabine Pass terminal, in operation in Louisiana, and trains at the Corpus Christi project, which each have LNG production capacities of 4.5 mtpa, each of the modular units would be able to produce between 1 mtpa and 1.5 mtpa, Cheniere Chief Commercial Officer Anatol Feygin said at the time.

Feygin updated that information in a March interview. He said the project would most likely take the form of an expansion of one of the existing terminals and would be "cost competitive" with the third train at Corpus Christi, which he described as one of the cheapest trains in the world.

Cheniere in a June presentation said the midscale project would include up to seven trains, each with a capacity of roughly 1.4 mtpa.

LNG infrastructure developers have looked to smaller liquefaction trains as a way forward in a market where larger export projects have struggled to contract out all their capacity. In addition to the third train at Corpus Christi and a sixth train at Sabine Pass, four other U.S. LNG export projects have received all major regulatory permits but have not been sanctioned by their sponsors.