Sempra Energy received its first shipment of liquefied natural gas at its new terminal near Lake Charles, La., on Sunday, making it the fourth LNG terminal opened in the U.S. in a little over a year.
The 945-foot-long tanker British Diamond carried the approximately 4.8 million cubic feet of LNG from a liquefaction plant in Trinidad. A second shipment is expected later this month as part of the initial "cool-down" of the $900 million facility.
Analysts are expecting a surge in LNG imports into the U.S. this year despite low natural gas prices and ample stockpiles that have followed an increase in domestic production and a lack of demand due to the slowed economy.
The surge is expected because of the startup of a number of massive natural gas liquefaction projects overseas where production costs are well below current U.S. gas prices.
One sign of the surge is Chevron's announcement this month it signed an LNG supply agreement with Qatar's RasGas for delivery through Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass, La., terminal in July.
In April 2008, Houston-based Cheniere took its first shipment of LNG at Sabine Pass, as did the Freeport LNG Terminal on Quintana Island, about 60 miles south of Houston. The Woodlands-based Excelerate Energy opened a floating terminal off Louisiana in 2005 and another off Massachusetts last year.
Exxon Mobil's Golden Pass LNG terminal just north of Sabine Pass was scheduled to open this year, but that has been delayed because of heavy damage during Hurricane Ike.
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