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Houston — US LNG feedgas deliveries remained near record levels Monday with Cheniere Energy continuing equipment testing on the second liquefaction train at its export facility near Corpus Christi, Texas, S&P Global Platts Analytics data showed.

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Commissioning of the unit is progressing well, a company spokesman said in an email responding to questions. The biggest US exporter of LNG produced from shale gas has been ahead of schedule with construction at the Texas terminal, as well as its Sabine Pass liquefaction facility in Louisiana.

With as many as three more export terminals expected to start up in 2019, the US is on the verge of becoming a major player in the global supply of LNG. The additions and expansions are expected to more than double the amount of domestic LNG feedgas demand this year compared with 2018.

The biggest question mark hanging over the US industry, and by extension market participants in Asia, Europe and Latin America, is how many new projects will be advanced by developers in what is shaping up to be a busy year for final investment decisions. To hit the early- to mid-2020s timeframe when global supply is forecast to be short, construction would need to start in 2019, or soon after.

Tariffs are a wildcard. The US and China were said to be planning to discuss trade tensions between the two countries, though it was unclear whether that would lead to a resolution, and, if so, when. Cheniere and other US exporters were preparing in the next few weeks to release financial results for the final quarter of 2018 and their outlooks for 2019 and beyond.

Shortly after Cheniere received Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval last week to introduce fuel gas to its Corpus Christi Train 2, total deliveries to the terminal managed to exceed 700 MMcf/d for the first time and have now done so the last two days, Platts Analytics data showed. Overall, across Cheniere's two terminals and Dominion Energy's Cove Point terminal in Maryland, total US LNG feedgas demand Monday was about 5 Bcf/d, near the record level of almost 5.6 Bcf/d reached on Saturday, Platts Analytics data showed. Since exporting its first cargo December 11, feedgas deliveries at Corpus Christi have averaged 412 MMcf/d and the terminal has now exported a total of three cargoes, according to Platts' vessel tracker, cFlow. Platts Analytics estimates Train 1 at Corpus Christi will enter commercial service in February with Train 2 slated for August.

FUTURE FLOWS

However, the recent approval to introduce fuel gas at Train 2 suggests that significant flows to the train could occur by early summer, given how startup operations have progressed at other US LNG export facilities.

At Sabine Pass, Cheniere is operating five liquefaction trains and is nearing a final investment decision on a sixth train. The terminal recorded a new single-day feedgas demand high of 4.15 Bcf/d Friday, likely a result of deliveries continuing to increase at Train 5, which is currently being commissioned. Platts Analytics anticipates Train 5 will enter commercial service sometime this month.

Kinder Morgan, Sempra Energy and Freeport LNG are all expected to start up LNG export terminals in the US this year. Another dozen or so developers that would make up the second wave of US liquefaction are expected to receive terminal permit decisions from US regulators this year and early next year.

-- Harry Weber and Tyler Jubert, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jim Magill, newsdesk@spglobal.com