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Dominion Energy's first LNG export departs US Cove Point terminal: pilots

Dominion Energy became the second US exporter of LNG produced from shale gas when a tanker departed its Cove Point terminal early Friday with a commissioning cargo, the first one made at and shipped from the Maryland facility.

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Ross Jones, a dispatcher for the pilots group responsible for guiding vessels to and from the facility, said the Shell-owned Gemmata tanker pulled away around 1 am local time from the Cove Point jetty -- an offshore dock where LNG is moved back and forth from the facility via a piping system.

That was about 41 hours after it arrived on Wednesday. It was delayed several hours due to dense fog in the area, Jones said.

The cargo's destination was not immediately disclosed. S&P Global Platts vessel tracking software cFlow also showed the tanker departing. A Dominion spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

With the shipment from Cove Point, Dominion joins Cheniere Energy as an LNG exporter. Cheniere's Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana exported its first cargo in February 2016.

A handful of other US export terminals are under construction and more than a dozen are being proposed, putting the country on the verge of becoming a much bigger player in the supply of LNG globally.

How dominant the US field will be is unclear, as some second-wave projects have yet to reach firm long-term supply contracts with buyers.

Shell has a deal with Dominion to take Cove Point's exported commissioning cargoes. Dominion previously said commercial service at Cove Point, under long-term contracts with Gail India and a joint venture involving Japan's Sumitomo and Tokyo Gas, would begin in early March. It was not clear how many, if any, more commissioning cargoes will be loaded.

In a notice Thursday, Dominion announced an unplanned outage at the Pleasant Valley Commissioning Meter, which interconnects with Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line and supplies commissioning volumes to the Cove Point LNG export facility, dropping flow to 0 MMcf/d from a seven-day average of 165 MMcf/d.

Dominion said the meter will remain out of service until further notice. It still remains unclear the exact impact of the meter outage and if there is flexibility to flow the lost volumes on the non-commissioning Pleasant Valley meter.

--Harry Weber,
--Edited by Geetha Narayanasamy,