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Cameron LNG is considering going forward with two more natural gas liquefaction units at the company's Hackberry export terminal in southwest Louisiana. The company recently started production at its second unit and expects to start up its third in the second quarter.

Leaders at Houston-based Cameron LNG are considering going forward with two more natural gas liquefaction units at the company's Hackberry export terminal in southwest Louisiana.

The potential expansion was mentioned in documents submitted to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality when the company requested a variance in mid-November regarding flaring at its Hackberry facility for its second unit, which began producing LNG in recent weeks. A third unit is expected to begin production in the second quarter this year. Cameron LNG representatives confirmed its plans as well. 

Cameron LNG is jointly owned by affiliates of Sempra LNG, Total, Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and Japan LNG Investment LLC, which is a partnership between Mitsubishi Corp. and Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha.

The focus at Cameron LNG right now is to get the first three units up and running, but the company is moving toward a decision on the expansion, Joseph Householder, the chief executive officer of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, told analysts on Nov. 1 during its third-quarter conference call.

Sempra Energy noted that permits already have been secured for units four and five from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which the agency said occurred in 2016. The expansion could lift Cameron LNG from the fourth-largest LNG operation in the U.S. to No. 2 when at full capacity.

Householder told analysts in November that the company is signing memorandums of understanding with LNG customers in general who are "quite excited about being in some of these projects and they worry that they're going to get left out and they want to sign something." The company also has plans for four other LNG sites across North America.

Sempra Energy is a 50% owner of Cameron LNG. In late October, Sempra signed a memorandum of understanding with Mitsui & Co. LTD, which is also an equity owner of Cameron LNG, for a preliminary non-binding agreement for the second phase of Cameron LNG, which would be units four and five. Mitsui would purchase up to one-third of those two units and potentially take 1 million tons per year of LNG.

"We signed an (memorandum of understanding) for Cameron expansion, the partners are moving forward," Householder said. "We've got Total telling us exactly how they think we should do it, (but) we haven't voted on anything yet."

Cameron LNG would be able to export up to 12 million tons of LNG each year with only three LNG units, or 1.7 billion cubic feet each day. Having five units could boost exports to 24.92 million tons of LNG per year for Cameron LNG and make it the second-largest LNG operation in the U.S. behind Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass site, also in southwest Louisiana. That facility has five LNG units and a sixth that's under construction. Six units at Cheniere Energy could export up to 27 million tons of LNG each year at full capacity.

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Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.