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ExxonMobil says it expects to 'sanction' Golden Pass LNG export project with Qatar Petroleum

Highlights

Texas terminal was originally developed as import facility

ConocoPhillips mum on status of its stake in development

Houston — ExxonMobil expects to advance its long-dormant Golden Pass LNG export project with Qatar Petroleum in Texas and will make a formal announcement in the near future, CEO Darren Woods said Friday.

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The redevelopment and conversion of the Golden Pass receiving terminal would be a significant addition to US Gulf Coast LNG export capacity, as it sits directly across the water from Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass export facility in Cameron Parish Louisiana. US Department of Energy data shows it has not imported any gas since June 2011.

At the World Gas Conference in Washington in June, a senior executive said the company was working toward a final investment decision and felt good about the project moving forward. Since then, several North American export projects have announced positive FIDs, expansions of existing facilities or have suggested that they were close to making decisions. During a conference call to discuss fourth-quarter financial results, Woods said ExxonMobil now expects to "sanction" Golden Pass.

"We've also been working very closely with QP, our partner in Golden Pass, to advance that investment and look forward to announcing something here in the very near term," Woods said.

He did not specify a time frame for the announcement. In recent months, QP has stated an aggressive position toward expanding its gas and LNG operations in the US.

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"With respect to Golden Pass, I think it's got a lot of strategic value," Woods said. "If you think about the gas business in the US, the quantity of gas available to the marketplace, the associated gas that comes on with some of the crude development, we continue to see, from a supply standpoint, a very attractive supply gas market in the US.

"For us then," he added, "we've got an opportunity to leverage our existing terminal facilities, which gives us an advantage. And then it also allows us with a supply point here in the Atlantic basin in North America for a lot of optimization as we look to supply the global markets. And so I think we've got some unique advantages with the existing facilities. We've got advantages with the industry supply source here in the US, and then we've got advantages in terms of a global LNG business and the ability to optimize across that whole portfolio. And including the work that we do with QP and optimization with that integrated portfolio."

The Golden Pass LNG terminal was developed as a joint venture of affiliates of Qatar Petroleum (70%), ExxonMobil (17.6%) and ConocoPhillips (12.4%). The terminal was initially planned to be an import facility, but after the US shale revolution unlocked vast amounts of cheap gas, developers, especially the ones along the Gulf Coast, began looking at exports instead.

During Friday's earnings call, Woods did not mention ConocoPhillips.

A spokesman for ConocoPhillips, Daren Beaudo, declined to comment on the status of the company's Golden Pass LNG investment. In its annual report for 2017, issued last year, ConocoPhillips said it was evaluating opportunities to optimize the value of the terminal facilities. It estimated at the time the net book value of its investment at $247 million.

-- Harry Weber, Harry.Weber@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com