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US gives Freeport LNG permission to flow gas to first train for commissioning

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US gives Freeport LNG permission to flow gas to first train for commissioning

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Texas facility preparing to begin production

Start of operations would follow several previous delays

Houston — Freeport LNG was given the go-ahead Friday to begin flowing gas to its first liquefaction train for the purpose of commissioning as it prepares to start production at the export facility in Texas.

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The terminal south of Houston will be the sixth major LNG export facility -- and the last one among the first wave of such facilities -- to begin operations in the US when it starts production, after Kinder Morgan said July 17 that liquefaction was underway at its Elba facility in Georgia. There were observable gas flows to all six facilities on Friday, totaling about 6.5 Bcf/d, S&P Global Platts Analytics data show.

In a letter to Freeport LNG, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the operator can now introduce hazardous fluids for the commissioning of Train 1 and associated utility systems. It must apply for and receive separate permission to place the unit -- one of three being built at the facility -- into service.

"In order to demonstrate the progress in testing needed to show that the facilities can safely and reliably operate at or near the design production rate specified in the commission order, Freeport LNG shall file weekly reports on the ongoing commissioning activities once LNG is produced from Train 1 until the commission authorizes commencement of service," FERC said.

Earlier in July, Freeport LNG held to its expectations that the first commissioning cargo would be ready to load in August. At the time, no gas deliveries had been observable at the facility since a 10-day surge in May. Within the last week, however, gas flows to the terminal began to ramp up, as other liquefaction equipment was expected to be cooled and commissioned ahead of the commissioning of Train 1.

A spokeswoman said at the time that the expected activity surrounding Train 1 would lead to "ready to load first cargo mid-August and an in-service date in September." Now that Freeport LNG can flow gas to the train, production could begin in the near future.

The operator's vice president of business development said in June he expected the first commissioning cargo to be shipped in August. Freeport LNG had previously said it expected liquefaction to begin in April or May, with the first cargo ready to load in July. That timing followed several construction- and weather-related delays, including after the facility was significantly affected by heavy rains during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

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

--Edited by Joe Fisher, joe.fisher@spglobal.com