* Bechtel to begin building the $5.6 bln project
* Sabine Pass export plant completion expected in 2015
* First U.S. LNG export plant to be built since 1969
NEW YORK, Aug 9 U.S. liquefied natural gas
terminal developer Cheniere Energy has given the green
light for construction of the first U.S. LNG export plant in a
generation, which is expected to be ready by 2015, the company
said in a statement on Thursday.
Bechtel Oil, Gas and Chemicals will now begin construction
on the $5.6 billion project in Sabine Pass, Louisiana, that will
open up vast reserves of cheap U.S. gas to needy import markets
in Asia and Europe where prices for the fuel are many times
The export plant, which will cool natural gas to a liquid
for shipping overseas, will be built on the site of Cheniere's
existing LNG import terminal which came online in 2008 but has
since sat idle as record rises in U.S. domestic gas production
dented import needs.
Sabine Pass LNG is expected online nearly 50 years after the
Kenai export plant in Alaska - the only other U.S. LNG export
terminal - was built in 1969. It will initially comprise two
production units, the first arriving six to nine months before
the second, the Houston-based company said. Two other units,
called trains, are scheduled for 2017 and 2018.
Cheniere has already signed supply deals with buyers across
the globe for nearly all the 2.2 billion cubic feet per day of
capacity from the four production trains, approval for which was
granted by federal regulators in April.
The customers include global LNG trader BG Group,
Spain's Gas Natural Fenosa, South Korea's KOGAS
and India's GAIL. BG will take supply from
the first train and Gas Natural Fenosa will be supplied by the
Cheniere's move to build the export plant comes as U.S.
natural gas inventories sit at record highs due to prolific
production from newly developed shale gas deposits.
A string of other export projects have been proposed in the
United States to supply Europe and Asia.
However, for now, Cheniere looks likely to be the only
project to get the go ahead. The U.S. government has suspended
decisions on expanding U.S. gas exports until a study on the
price impact of such exports on domestic consumers is completed