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LNG tanker loading at Elba as terminal prepares for first export: source

Highlights

Production at Georgia facility began in July

Total US feedgas deliveries set new record

Houston — Total feedgas deliveries to the six major US LNG export facilities reached a record 8.3 Bcf/d on Monday - equivalent to approximately 9% of the gas currently being produced daily in the US -- as Kinder Morgan's Elba Liquefaction terminal prepared to ship its first cargo, S&P Global Platts Analytics data show.

The LNG tanker Maran Gas Lindos moored to a jetty at Elba over the weekend and remained docked there on Monday afternoon, according to vessel-tracking data available on the website of the Savannah Pilots, which is responsible for guiding tankers into and out of the intracoastal waterway that serves the terminal. She has already started loading LNG, though it was unclear when she would depart, a market source said.

"It's definitely taking some time," the source said. "At first, we thought maybe tomorrow afternoon. Now we're not really 100% sure."

Around midafternoon Monday, five tug boats surrounded the tanker. The purpose was to help it shift its position slightly, the source said. The tanker arrived early for its Coast Guard inspection, according to multiple market sources. Her destination after departure was not known.

Platts vessel-tracking software cFlow show the draught at 10.0 m, the same level as when the tanker arrived and below the ship's maximum draught of 11.6. The draught is the depth of the vessel below the waterline. Vessels sink lower as more LNG is loaded. Updated readings often are not available via radar until tankers resume their voyage.

Whether the first cargo will depart aboard the Maran Gas Lindos or another tanker that was to arrive later also was unclear. There is a second jetty at the site, which used to solely be an import facility before being converted to be able to handle exports. The Maran Gas Lindos last dropped off a cargo at Rotterdam in the Netherlands on November 21 before heading to the US the following day, cFlow showed. The tanker's draught has been between 9.5-9.9 m each of the times it has arrived at a terminal to pick up a cargo in recent months.

Kinder Morgan declined to comment on plans for Elba's first cargo, while officials at Shell, the sole offtaker from the facility, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Backed by a 20-year offtake agreement with Shell, Elba is by far the smallest of the existing crop of major US LNG export terminals. It could take as long as 100 days for each of the 10 trains planned for Elba, with nameplate capacity of around 33 MMcf/d, to fill a standard LNG cargo, Platts Analytics data show. As of Monday, it had been 145 days since Elba began producing LNG from its first train July 17. By comparison, a single train at Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana could fill a standard cargo in just under six days. Additional trains at Elba have come online since initial production began.

Monday's ramp-up in flows to US liquefaction facilities was supported by record high feedgas deliveries to both Freeport LNG in Texas and Sempra Energy's Cameron LNG in Louisiana, which are both in the process of commissioning their second trains. Freeport LNG began commercial service on its first train Monday.

HIGHER UTILIZATION

Also, Sabine Pass has continued to take feedgas well in excess of its nameplate capacity, with deliveries averaging over 4.1 Bcf/d and implying utilizations upwards of 110% across its five trains in operation. Cheniere is building a sixth train at Sabine Pass. It operates two trains at its export terminal near Corpus Christi, Texas, and is building a third there.

The Elba terminal near Savannah will have a capacity of 2.5 million mt/year when completed. Besides Elba, Freeport, Cameron and the two Cheniere terminals, Dominion Energy operates the Cove Point export facility in Maryland.

Kinder Morgan has proposed building a second LNG terminal in Mississippi, Gulf LNG. That project has received Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval, though Kinder Morgan's CEO said in July that a final investment decision was a ways off, amid efforts to secure sufficient commercial interest.

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

-- Ross Wyeno, rwyeno@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com

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