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Brazil expected to import most Sabine Pass commissioning LNG cargoes

Houston — Brazil's Petrobras will likely import up to seven of the 8-10 commissioning cargoes from Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass export terminal, market sources said this week.

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Cheniere's commissioning cargoes, which reportedly have high ethane content, are well-suited for import by Brazil where natural gas liquids can be fractionated prior to the regasification process.

"The feedstock gas being used for first exports is coming from storage tanks," one market source close to Cheniere said Tuesday. "It's old LNG. The boil off gives it a higher ethane content."

Only a limited number of LNG importers in the Atlantic Basin can handle elevated ethane levels. Lithuania, where many had expected Cheniere's first cargo to land, is among those that cannot.

That first cargo, loaded aboard the 160,000 cu m Asian Vision according to Platts tradeflow software cFlow, was subsequently expected to offload at the Bahia Regas Terminal in Northeast Brazil.

But the vessel was diverted in early March to Rio de Janeiro where Petrobras has both the equipment and infrastructure to fractionate natural gas liquids.

Brazil's only ethane-based petrochemical complex, owned by Braskem, is also located in Rio de Janeiro state. The steam cracker, fed exclusively by natural gas liquids, produces 500,000 mt/year of ethylene.

Neither Braskem nor Petrobras were immediately available for comment.

Amid continued weakness in Brazil's natural gas demand it remains unclear whether Cheniere's second export volume -- which Platts cFlow shows is currently being loaded aboard the 162,000 cu m Clean Ocean -- will be imported by Petrobras.

Some market sources in Europe expect that the cargo will be delivered to the Middle East, possibly Kuwait.

--J. Robinson,
--Edited by Lisa Miller,