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Gulf LNG terminal mulling export opportunities

PASCAGOULA — A Pascagoula shipping terminal opened in 2011 to import liquefied natural gas now is working to become an export terminal.

The nationwide shale boom has cut imports by three-quarters since the $1.1 billion Gulf LNG terminal opened near the Bayou Casotte Ship Channel.

More than 431 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas were imported in 2010 but the total has dropped steadily since, with fewer than 97 billion cubic feet imported last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And January imports fell by about one-third from last year to this year. Figures on the federal agency’s website show 8.5 billion cubic feet were imported in January, compared to 13.5 billion cubic feet in January 2012.

Gulf LNG got U.S. Department of Energy approval in 2012 to export 11.5 million tons of LNG a year to countries approved under the Free Trade Agreement, including Australia, Canada and some in South and Central America.

More than two dozen projects have federal permission to export to FTA countries, but only seven have the more crucial approval to export to non-FTA countries, which include the hotter Asian markets, The Sun Herald reported. And only one, in Louisiana, has all the permits needed for construction to begin in 2015 to convert and export LNG.

The Pascagoula terminal is seventh on the list for a permit to export to other countries, Kinder Morgan Inc. spokesman Richard Wheatley said.

He said there’s no estimate on how long it would take to convert the terminal after getting such approval.

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