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Construction continues on a liquefaction unit at Cameron LNG near Hackberry. The company has asked federal regulators for a six-year extension on a proposed two-unit expansion of its LNG export terminal.

Cameron LNG has asked federal regulators for a six-year extension to complete the construction of a proposed expansion at its Hackberry liquefied natural gas export terminal in southwest Louisiana. 

Jaime Gray, project director of Cameron LNG at Sempra LNG, which is a partner in the facility, penned a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this month requesting the extension of the company's existing permits slated to expire in May. 

Cameron LNG has been considering adding two natural gas liquefaction units at the Hackberry site, where supercooled LNG is sent on tanker ships around the world to customers.

The company already secured permits for units four and five from FERC, dating back to 2016. If the extension is granted and construction proceeds, that expansion would add 515 billion cubic feet per year of LNG exports for the company.

Cameron LNG has U.S. headquarters in Houston and 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 group expects a final investment decision to happen by second-quarter 2021. The expansion is expected to take nearly 5 years to complete.

Cameron LNG already has spent $50 million on the expansion project, which includes financing, permitting, engineering work and site preparation, according to the letter. In addition, the company said that it has already obtained all local permits to begin construction. 

Not all of Cameron LNG's joint-venture owners agreed on the expansion project, which resulted in the buyout of a partner that had opposed it. 

"In 2016, one of the former (joint-venture) partners indicated to the other (joint-venture) partners that it did not wish to invest additional capital under the (joint-venture) with respect to the Cameron LNG Expansion Project," Gray, the project manager, said in his letter. "Discussions among the other three (joint-venture) partners took place regarding the development of an alternative (financial) structure for developing the project." 

In July 2018, Total, an investor in Cameron LNG, acquired the equity stake of Engie, another joint-venture partner in the LNG project. By November 2018, Total and Sempra Energy signed a memorandum of understanding about a framework to find a way to make the expansion project happen. 

In October 2019, Sempra signed another memorandum with Mitsui & Co. with similar terms. 

"Granting the requested extension of time will enable Cameron LNG and the (joint-venture) partners to complete all the necessary commercial arrangements to commence construction," Gray said in the letter. 

Cameron LNG would be able to export up to 12 million tons of LNG each year with only three LNG units. Having five units could boost exports to 24.92 million tons of LNG per year and make Cameron LNG 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.

McDermott International Inc. and Chiyoda Corp. were tapped as the lead contractors on Cameron LNG. Since then, McDermott International has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and cited cost overruns at Cameron LNG as a major issue. McDermott has about 4,000 employees across Louisiana, mostly in the Lake Charles area.

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Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.