Freeport LNG Texas terminal outage hurts Europe, may help African exporters

·3 min read

By Liz Hampton and Scott DiSavino

June 16 (Reuters) - Global liquefied natural gas (LNG) buyers - especially in Europe - and some U.S. shale producers have been reeling since a June 8 blast shut Freeport LNG's massive export terminal in Texas.

Reverberations also are being felt in Africa, where LNG producers could get a boost from the months-long shutdown to repair the Texas terminal, analysts said, noting that European buyers moving away from Russian gas and pipeline operators have few supply alternatives.

The Freeport facility accounts for roughly 20% of U.S. LNG processing capacity, drawing 2 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of natural gas from U.S. shale producers.

A full restart of the facility will not happen until late this year, the company said this week. The outage sent U.S. gas futures down 18% from the price a day before the fire, while European gas prices have surged more than 60%, with an additional boost from less gas on Russian pipelines.

Some 75% of Freeport LNG's feed gas, or 1.47 bcfd, relies on Boardwalk Pipeline's Gulf South Pipeline, with a unit of BP PLC supplying roughly half of that capacity, according to consultancy East Daley Capital.

JERA Energy America and Osaka Gas Trading also are shippers on that line, at about 0.355 bcfd and 0.220 bcfd, respectively. The day after Freeport suffered the explosion, pipeline operator Gulf South said its flows to the facility were zero.

"Shippers will not be able to easily shift volumes to alternate delivery points without amending their contracts with the pipeline in which case the pipeline can raise rates or require a separate contract," said Alex Gafford, a capital markets analyst with East Daley Capital.

BP is working "though the closure's impact on our LNG operations," a spokesperson said on Thursday. Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, JERA Energy America, Osaka Gas Trading, and Uniper, also a shipper on Gulf South, did not respond to requests for comment.

French energy company TotalEnergies SE, which supplies about 0.322 bcfd of gas to the facility through the Texas Eastern Gas Transmission line, declined to comment.

WINNERS

African LNG exporters could benefit from the outage. Nigerian and Algerian plants have "been running at levels far below nameplate capacity," said Sindre Knutsson, Rystad's vice president of gas and LNG.

"Africa is in a good position to feed more gas to Europe in the medium to long-term," he said, noting Nigeria could produce more LNG as gas production resumes following declines from COVID-19 related losses.

Other U.S. exporters, such as Cheniere Energy Inc and Sempra LNG, are increasing their efficiency and producing more fuel that can help offset some of Freeport's losses.

"LNG exports through other terminals will offset 50-75% of the capacity loss," said Dan Lippe a managing partner at energy consultants Petral Consulting Co. Some U.S. facilities are operating about 15% above their nameplate, or posted, capacity, he said.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York and Liz Hampton in Denver; Editing by David Gregorio)

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