The $10 billion Cameron LNG facility opens a second processing unit
By ROB NIKOLEWSKI, DEC. 30, 2019
Cameron LNG facility in Hackberry, Louisiana, ships super-cooled natural gas to exports markets around the globe. (Sempra LNG )
The $10 billion liquefied natural gas, or LNG, facility on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana that is majority-owned by a subsidiary of San Diego’s Sempra Energy has successfully opened a second unit that will soon export natural gas to markets across the globe.
“We are pleased to reach this important milestone in the development of the liquefaction facility,” Lisa Glatch, chief operating officer for Sempra LNG, said in a statement.
Called Cameron LNG, the massive plant opened commercial operations in August when it launched Train 1 of the facility. LNG production units are called “trains,” and plant officials earlier this month announced Train 2 had begun producing liquefied gas that is scheduled to load onto cargo ships in the first quarter of 2020.
A third train is scheduled to start exporting LNG from Cameron in the third quarter of 2020.
By the time all three trains are up and running, the Cameron LNG facility along the Calcasieu River anticipates exporting as much as 12 million tons of LNG per year, or 1.7 billion cubic feet per day. The first phase of the Cameron LNG facility on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana is anticipated to generate from $400 million to $450 million per year for Sempra.
Cameron is one of a number of LNG plants that have been approved by federal regulators in response to the rapid increase in natural gas production in places such as the Permian Basin in Texas and southeastern New Mexico in the past decade.
Natural gas can then be sent via pipeline to LNG facilities, where it can be super-cooled to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit, loaded onto specially made cargo tanks on double-hulled ships and taken to gas-hungry destinations such as Europe and Asia. Japan buys more LNG than any other country and demand in in China, which is eager to switch from coal to natural gas, is expected to continue rising.
Cameron LNG is jointly owned by Sempra, French multinational Total, Mitsui of Japan and a consortium of other Japanese companies that includes Mitsubishi. Sempra owns a 50.2 percent stake in the project.
Sempra is also considering constructing two other LNG facilities: one in the Texas Gulf Coast town of Port Arthur and an additional export component for an already existing LNG facility operated by the company’s IEnova subsidiary in Mexico near Ensenada called Energía Costa Azul. A final decision is expected on Port Arthur by the middle of 2020; the decision on the Ensenada facility is anticipated to come in the first quarter of the year.
The LNG boom has its critics, though.
Some manufacturers worry that the increasing volume of natural gas that is being exported may result in lower natural gas capacity and higher prices for domestic gas customers stateside.
“All U.S. consumers should be very concerned about the Sempra export terminal and the many others that the (U.S. Department of Energy) has already approved or plans to approve,” said Paul Cicio, president of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, a trade group, in an email.
Sempra LNG officials disagree, saying analysis indicates “ample (amounts of) export for some period of time to come.”
Environmental groups have also come out in opposition. While natural gas burns twice as clean as coal, it is a fossil fuel and methane can leak from pipelines, well sites and other infrastructure. Methane is about 30 times more potent than CO2 when released into the atmosphere.
LNG export terminals, pipelines and natural gas power plants “are long-term, expensive investments that have a good chance of becoming uncompetitive, or economically ‘stranded,’ since there are much cleaner, cost-competitive (or soon to be) alternatives to reach our climate goals,” the Natural Resources Defense Council officials said in a blog earlier this year.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that by 2025, the U.S. will have the world’s largest LNG export capacity, surpassing both Qatar and Australia.