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Houston Draws U.S. Regulators Aiming to Boost LNG Export Plants


By Stephen Cunningham

(Bloomberg) The top federal energy regulator is muscling up and moving part of its operation west in an action aimed at speeding up applications for U.S. liquefied natural gas export projects.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will open an office in Houston and create a new LNG division for its Office of Energy Projects, according to a statement on Tuesday. The agency will also recruit eight full-time staff to work in Houston, in addition to an existing 20-strong team in Washington.

FERC has been working on streamlining the complex process to site, build and operate LNG export terminals for more than a year amid a project backlog. About a dozen developers are vying to be a part of the so-called second wave of U.S. suppliers.

“Much of the work related to these LNG projects, and the expertise it requires, is based in and around Houston, the so-called ‘Energy Capital of the World,’” said Chairman Neil Chatterjee. “After careful research and evaluation, the commission has determined we should direct our newest efforts to recruiting staff in the area.”

The U.S. last year was the world’s third largest holder of LNG export capacity and volumes are expected to be at that level this year. In a report on Monday, analysts at Morgan Stanley forecast the U.S. being the no. 1 producer by 2025.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has touted LNG as a foreign policy tool to help European countries reduce their dependence on Russian gas.

Last week, the commission approved Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Gulf LNG export project, the fifth to be cleared since a compromise was reached earlier this year.

A stalemate at the agency, split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans, over the treatment of greenhouse gas emissions had threatened to hold up approvals. That was broken in February when Democrat Cheryl LaFleur sided with her two Republican colleagues to authorize Venture Global LNG Inc.’s Calcasieu Pass LNG project.

Republicans will have a 2-1 majority when LaFleur steps down at the end of August.

Job postings for the new staff members will be made shortly and the agency has already begun



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