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US LNG export activity recovers after storm moves away from Gulf Coast

Highlights

Ramp up still off pre-storm levels amid outages

Netbacks from end-user markets support cargoes

Houston — With the former Tropical Storm Beta having passed through, US liquefaction terminal utilization rebounded Sept. 24, but remained below pre-storm levels, S&P Global Platts Analytics data show.

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The increase in activity comes as stronger netbacks from deliveries to European and Asian markets incentivize additional uncontracted US export capacity to dispatch.

A full ramp up, however, may have to wait several more weeks for Sempra Energy's Cameron LNG in Louisiana to resume operations following an outage caused by an earlier storm — in what is shaping up to be a record-setting Atlantic hurricane season — and Dominion Energy's Cove Point terminal in Maryland to complete annual maintenance.

The Platts JKM for November was assessed 14.9 cents/MMBtu higher day on day at $4.924/MMBtu on Sept. 24, on higher tender results and a stronger Platts Market On Close assessment process bid. Prices for shipments to the key Northeast Asian import market have been trending higher in recent months and are expected to show strength through the winter.

Natural gas deliveries to major US liquefaction facilities ran at about 6.1 Bcf/d on Sept. 24, compared with 5.3 Bcf/d on Sept 23 and a recent low of 3.9 Bcf/d on Sept. 22 when the worst of Beta's heavy rain and tropical storm force winds were battering Texas and Louisiana. Feedgas demand was still off its pre-storm level of 8.3 Bcf/d on Sept. 18, Platts Analytics data show.

The latest rise was driven largely by increased flows to Freeport LNG, located south of Houston.

Cameron LNG remained offline for the 30th consecutive day as a dredging operation in the channel that serves the terminal continued. Sempra's CEO has said it could be the end of October before the terminal, which shut down Aug. 26 ahead of Hurricane Laura and has remained offline due to damage to power infrastructure in the area, resumes full operations.

Cove Point, meanwhile, was down for the fourth consecutive day amid ongoing planned maintenance there. Dominion has declined to say how long the outage will last. The facility's annual maintenance in 2019 lasted 24 days.

Elsewhere, Cheniere Energy was granted approval Sept. 24 by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to introduce feedgas to the third train at its Corpus Christi liquefaction terminal in Texas to begin commissioning the dry flare.

The US Gulf Coast netback from the Dutch TTF hub rose to a year-to-date high of $1.26/MMBtu on Sept. 22 before sliding a bit to about 93 cents/MMBtu on Sept. 24, Platts Analytics data show. The LNG netback from the JKM hit a year-to-date high of $1.57/MMBtu on Sept. 21, before slipping to $1.14/MMBtu on Sept. 24.