Venture Global LNG began producing liquefied natural gas at its Calcasieu Pass plant in Louisiana, solidifying the U.S.’s position as the world’s top producer of the superchilled fuel.
The $5.8 billion export facility began making LNG on Jan. 19, according to a Thursday filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. When it starts commercial service in mid-2022, the U.S. will have the capacity to ship as much as 13.9 billion cubic feet of LNG per day, more than top producers Australia and Qatar.
It’s a stunning milestone for a nation that, less than a decade ago, was a net importer of natural gas. Since then, the shale boom has transformed the U.S. into the world’s biggest gas producer and rivaling Qatar as the top exporter of the fuel that feeds power plants and heats homes. Calcasieu Pass is the seventh export facility to open since 2016, when Cheniere Energy Inc. kicked off a new era of U.S. LNG shipments.
“U.S. LNG can now compete with almost any country, including Middle Eastern countries that have historically had a massive advantage on the production of gas and the production economics of gas,” said Muqsit Ashraf, senior managing director of Accenture’s global energy practice.
The Louisiana plant has long-term supply deals with nine international buyers and will be able to sell on the spot market any cargoes produced during the commissioning process. It’s the first of four export terminals under development by Venture Global, which has touted its modular approach to construction and its plans to curb emissions by adding capture capture technology to three projects.
The next U.S. export terminal expected to come online is Golden Pass LNG in Port Arthur, Texas, with an in-service target of 2024. The joint venture between Exxon Mobil Corp. and Qatar Energy would bring U.S. LNG peak processing capacity to 16.3 billion cubic feet per day. That could ensure the U.S. remains the biggest exporter until at least 2027, when Qatar’s Ras Laffan terminal is expected to complete an ambitious expansion project that would bring that nation’s capacity to 16.6 billion cubic feet a day.