WASHINGTON, Feb 24 (Reuters) – Excelerate Energy, a company founded by Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, said on Monday it has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build and operate the first U.S. floating liquefied natural gas export facility.
The filing is “a major milestone” and strengthens the project’s momentum, Rob Bryngelson, president and CEO of Excelerate Energy, said in a release. The privately-held company hopes to make a final investment decision on the project within 12 months, he said.
Excelerate expects the Lavaca Bay facility, off the coast of Texas, will be operational in late 2018. When the project was first proposed, Excelerate had hoped it would begin shipments in 2017, and the company did not immediately respond to questions about the delay in schedule.
Excelerate has federal approvals in place to export gas to countries with which the United States has free trade agreements. It is hoping to get approval from the Department of Energy to export to non-free trade countries, and applied to do so in late 2012.
Lavaca Bay would have the capacity to export 4.4 million metric tonnes per year (mtpa). When the project was first proposed, Excelerate said it would initially export from 3 million to 4 million mtpa and could be expanded to 8 million mtpa.
Excelerate is one of more than 20 projects that hope to ship surplus gas being generated by the domestic drilling boom.
The relatively small size of a floating liquefaction project compared to an onshore site could speed up construction. Most LNG projects take at least four years to build.
Earlier this month, the Department of Energy approved LNG exports from Sempra Energy’s Cameron project in Louisiana to non free-trade countries, bringing the total of authorized exports to nearly 8.5 billion cubic feet (bcf) per day, once terminals are constructed and working at capacity.
Some analysts have cautioned that a pause in approvals could be near as licensed export volumes near the threshold of 12 bcf a day considered in studies by the Energy Information Administration and NERA Economic Consulting.
Some politicians, including Senator Ron Wyden who earlier this month became chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, have been concerned that unlimited exports could increase fuel prices for Americans. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner, Editing by Franklin Paul and Marguerita Choy)