Cheniere's Corpus Christi Liquefaction opens, puts Texas in play for LNG


t's official — Corpus Christi Liquefaction is open for business.

Cheniere Energy Inc. celebrated the grand opening of its multi-billion dollar liquefied natural gas facility in Gregory on Thursday, putting the Coastal Bend and state of Texas in play in the global LNG market. The project has been several years in the making, and Thursday's event caps what has been a coordinated effort between entities in Nueces and San Patricio counties to make it a reality.

Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross joined hundreds in attending the grand opening celebration, speaking about the importance of the project to the state and the nation.

"I am proud to get up here and be able to say that Texas is the energy capital of the entire world, and thanks to Cheniere, we just got bigger," Abbott said.

Corpus Christi Liquefaction is a massive $15 billion investment from Cheniere that has been in the works for over a decade, and is the first greenfield liquefaction plant built in the lower 48 states. The company is finishing up one of three LNG trains at its facility in Gregory, with the first LNG cargo set to depart from the facility soon after Thursday's grand opening. 

Jack Fusco, president and chief executive officer of Cheniere, said the plant was cooling down and preparing to ready LNG for export, but could not say when that would occur. A vessel, the Golar Tundra, was docked at Cheniere's facility in the Port of Corpus Christi to prepare for that possible export.

Cheniere's other LNG facility in Sabine Pass on the state line between Texas and Louisiana already has trains up and running that are producing and exporting LNG. The Corpus Christi Liquefaction facility in Gregory is a new facility — or greenfield site — that is nearing completion of its commissioning process, so it must be cooled down and prepared before its first LNG cargo can be loaded onto a vessel, Fusco said.

"We aren't loading the ship right now — we're cooling down the facility," he said. "So at Sabine Train 5, they don't have to worry about cooling down the rest of the process ... here we do. So we're going to take it very slow and very safe, and when we all feel comfortable ... then we'll start loading the ship."

"It will be soon," he added. "(The Golar Tundra) was here for testing purposes, and then in the event that we progress faster than we thought we were going to do, we wanted to have the ship here to take the LNG."

The massive 960-foot vessel is an example of the ships that will be traveling in and out of the port once LNG exports begin in earnest from Corpus Christi Liquefaction. It will be the first time that LNG has been exported from not just the Port of Corpus Christi, but the state of Texas. The cargo will then be shipped to markets in Poland, China, Spain and Switzerland, to name a few, company officials said.

Fusco said that cooperation between local, state and federal leaders was crucial to the project's success, and added that the company would continue its outreach to communities in San Patricio and Nueces counties through its Cheniere Cares Foundation.

At the end of the nearly 45-minute event, the foundation awarded $250,000 to the Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group to help with repairing or reconstructing homes for people impacted by Hurricane Harvey. It also gave $250,000 to Del Mar College to be used for development of training equipment for the Cheniere apprenticeship program, which could help fill operator and technician positions in the Coastal Bend.

The Corpus Christi Liquefaction project will result in the creation of more than 430 permanent jobs when fully operational, and more than 4,000 jobs during peak construction. It is projected to have a $5 billion economic impact in the Coastal Bend during a nine-year construction period, and $17 billion for the state during that same time period.

"We are extremely humbled by the support and the teamwork that has made this day so important to Cheniere, for Texas, for America and for our LNG customers worldwide," Fusco said.

The trains are facilities that operate independently to produce liquefied natural gas, and are being built by San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp. Each will be capable of producing 4.5 million tons annually at full capacity, company officials have said. 

The company has already signed a number of long-term sale and purchase agreements over the past several months with international companies to supply millions of tons of LNG via the Corpus Christi Liquefaction facility over the life of those agreements.

"This new LNG facility is an outstanding example of American ingenuity and why our economy is finally emerging from years of stagnation," Ross said. "I wish every American could see for themselves the grandeur of this plant."

U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud issued a statement saying the nation relies on the Port of Corpus Christi to export American energy around the world, and he's excited to see the project go online. 

“Our district is at the forefront of energy production, and the launch of liquified natural gas production at Cheniere's San Patricio facility is great news for job creation across our region and for ensuring the energy security of our nation," he said. 

Corpus Christi Liquefaction's second train is scheduled to come online in the second half of 2019, company officials have said, with a third phase tentatively set to be complete in late 2021.

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