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Chile's LNG imports soar in December, exports to Argentina resume

Santiago, Chile — Chilean imports of LNG jumped to 263,000 mt in December, a threefold increase from the same month of 2015, government figures showed Friday.

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The figure also marked an increase from 171,000 mt imported in November.

As a result, fourth-quarter imports rose 80.6% to 716,000 mt while annual imports rose 31.8% to 4.165 million mt.

Imports have risen as generation from natural gas expanded to offset limited supplies of hydroelectricity.

Trinidad and Tobago remained Chile's principle gas supplier, shipping 206,000 mt in December. But Chile also received 57,000 mt from the US during December, its first US imports since September.

Chile has become an important market for Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass liquefaction facility since it began exporting LNG last year. Thanks to the free trade agreement between the two countries, it enters Chile without a 6% import tariff.

Figures also showed that Chile resumed exports of natural gas to neighboring Argentina, pumping 70,000 mt during December, for the first time since August.

Chile began pumping gas over the Andes in May under an agreement between state energy firm ENAP and its Argentinian counterpart ENARSA. The gas, which Chile imports as LNG, reduces Argentina's reliance on other more expensive fossil fuels.

The two companies are negotiating repeating exports during this year's Southern Hemisphere winter.

The country has two regasification terminals -- Quintero in central Chile, which is controlled by Spain's Enagas, and Mejillones in the north, operated by Engie.

--Tom Azzopardi,
--Edited by Jason Lindquist,