Texas natural-gas exporter in 24-year LNG deal with Poland

Cheniere Energy, the Houston liquefied natural gas exporter, has signed a long-term supply contract with Poland’s state-run energy company, a deal touted by the Trump administration as helping to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.

The value of the 24-year-contract was not disclosed, but Cheniere said it would help support its expansions in Corpus Christi and its Sabine Pass complex in Louisiana, from where the first U.S. shipments of LNG left in early 2016.

European nations have long depended on natural gas shipped via pipeline from Russia, but tensions between the West and Russian President Vladmir Putin have raised concerns that his government could use its control of natural gas supplies as way to pressure Europe. As a result many European nation’s are seeking LNG from the United States, Australia and Qatar to diversify their supplies.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who was in Poland as part of a trip to Central and Eastern Europe to promote U.S. energy exports, said Cheniere’s deal would help Poland and Europe improve their energy security.

“This is a sign across Europe that this is how your energy security will be developed,” Perry said before the deal was signed.

Cheniere has led the burgeoning U.S. LNG industry, fed by record natural gas production from Texas and other U.S. shale plays. Only one other company, Dominion Energy of Richmond, Va., has begun exporting LNG from the United States, but others are expected to follow in the coming months, including two Houston firms, Kinder Morgan, which is completing an export terminal in Georgia, Freeport LNG, which will operate a Gulf Coast terminal at Quintana Island.

The Gulf Coast is attracting billions of dollars in investment in LNG processing and export facilities along the Gulf Coast. Several companies, including Sempra Energy of San Diego and Tellurian of Houston, are working on projects expected to start up in the coming years.

In an earnings report, Cheniere said its fifth LNG processing facility, called a train, at its Sabine Pass terminal near the Texas border is expected to come online in the first quarter of 2019. Cheniere said it contracted with California-based Bechtel Corp. to handle the engineering and construction on a planned sixth train there.

Cheniere said its Corpus Christi LNG export terminal is expected to commence commercial operations in early 2019 when the first train comes online. The second train is slated for startup in the second half of 2019. And a third train won’t be completed until the back half of 2021.

Cheniere said it earned $65 million profit in the third quarter, swinging from a $289 million loss a year ago. Cheniere’s revenues jumped 30 percent from last year up to $1.82 billion.

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