Williams Cos. Inc. received the go-ahead from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin full service on the 475,000-Dth/d Gulf Connector pipeline expansion project designed to feed natural gas to two LNG export terminals on the Texas coast: Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Corpus Christi terminal and the Freeport LNG Development LP terminal.
The expansion marked the second project of Williams' Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC to serve Gulf Coast LNG terminals after the company's February 2017 start of the 1.2 Bcf/d Gulf Trace project, which feeds Cheniere's Sabine Pass liquefaction and export project.
The authorization came as U.S. midstream developers push to connect their networks to growing gas export markets, a key source of future demand. Total U.S. LNG feedgas demand averaged 3.4 Bcf/d in 2018 and is expected to grow another 80% in 2019, supported by the startup of the Elba Island, Cameron and Freeport export facilities.
U.S. LNG feedgas demand has averaged just under 4 Bcf/d so far in January, down roughly 7% from December 2018. The drop in feedgas deliveries has been shouldered by all three running LNG export facilities in the Lower 48: Sabine Pass, Cove Point and Corpus Christi, which just began commissioning liquefaction trains in November 2018.
"Since 2017, Williams has now added more than 2 Bcf of export capacity via Transco to directly serve global natural gas markets," Williams spokesperson Christopher Stockton wrote in an email. "Projects like Gulf Connector leverage existing Transco gas pipeline infrastructure, which already has a significant presence along the Gulf Coast."
The Gulf Connector expansion will provide incremental firm transportation capacity from St. Helena Parish, La., to several interconnections, including one with Cheniere Corpus Christi Pipeline LP in San Patricio County, Texas. The project consists of three new compressor stations, a new pipeline interconnect and modifications to two compressor stations in southeast Texas.
Partial in-service, approved in November 2018, enabled up to 290 MMcf/d of service on an interim basis along the full path of the project. Facilities entering service Dec. 1, 2018, included compressor station 40 in Hardin County, Texas, compressor station 30 in Wharton County, Texas, compressor station 23 in Victoria County, Texas, and the Corpus Christi interconnect. (FERC docket CP16-494)
In December 2018, Transco asked FERC for permission to start the remaining facilities, including compressor station 17 and compressor station 23, and to start full service of up to 475,000 Dth/d on Jan. 1. The commission granted that permission Jan. 2.
The expansion will provide firm gas transportation service to Cheniere's Corpus Christi Liquefaction LLC, developer of the Corpus Christi LNG export terminal, and to Japan's Osaka Gas Trading and Export LLC, a customer of the Freeport LNG export terminal.
Freeport LNG is targeting the third quarter for commercial startup of its train 1, a first-quarter 2020 start for train 2, a second-quarter 2020 start for train 3, and a 2023 start for train 4.
Cheniere is ramping up the first train from its Corpus Christi LNG plant, which has a nameplate capacity of 4.5 million tonnes per year and exported its first cargo in December 2018.
Maya Weber is a reporter for S&P Global Platts, which, like S&P Global Market Intelligence, is owned by S&P Global Inc.