Feds boost natural gas export allowance for Freeport LNG

HOUSTON — The Energy Department has boosted the amount of natural gas that Freeport LNG can export overseas from its Texas facility, the federal agency announced Friday.

The company’s facility in Quintana Island, Texas, now has approval to export 1.8 billion cubic feet per day for 20 years to countries that do not have a free-trade agreement with the United States, subject to environmental review and final regulatory approval. In May, Freeport LNG received approval to export 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

Freeport LNG is one of four facilities that has conditional authorization to ship the nation’s natural gas bounty to non-free trade nations, including Japan. Law directs the Energy Department to approve natural gas exports to such countries unless it wouldn’t be in the public interest, considering the effect on the economy, environment and national energy security.

In September, Dominion’s Cove Point was conditionally approved for 770 million cubic feet of natural gas exports per day. Less than a month earlier, the agency gave license to the Lake Charles Exports facility in Louisiana for the sale of 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass facility received approval last year.

The projects have spurred fierce debate over how the nation’s booming natural gas production should be used. Consumer groups argue that exports should be restricted to keep the domestic price of natural gas low. However, natural gas producers say that exports will provide incentive to increase drilling for the fossil fuel, adding jobs and boosting the economy.

“We now strongly urge DOE to move forward more rapidly with the remaining non-FTA applications still pending with their office,” said Center for Liquefied Natural Gas President Bill Cooper in a written statement Friday, responding to the expanded export allowance for Freeport LNG.

“Thanks to an abundance of natural gas, the United States is in the unique position of being able to export some to our trading partners abroad which will bring wealth into the country, create jobs across the value chain and benefit our domestic industries and consumers,” Cooper said.

The federal government now has authorized about 6.8 billion cubic feet of U.S. natural gas to be exported to non-free trade nations.

Also on FuelFix:

Natural gas industry experiencing ‘paradigm shift’