By Curtis Williams
HOUSTON (Reuters) -Venture Global LNG's CEO said the development of its U.S. liquefied natural gas plants has not been slowed by international court battles over its failure to deliver cargoes to contract holders, including BP and Shell.
CEO Michael Sabel's comments to Reuters last week were the company's most detailed public statements to date over a series of contract arbitration cases over Venture Global LNG's withholding cargoes from the first of its several LNG projects.
Both oil majors separately have accused the U.S. exporter of super-cooled gas of failing to supply them with contracted cargoes while selling gas to non-contract customers while prices were soaring.
Venture Global LNG claims its first project, called Calcasieu Pass, has yet to start full commercial operations due to equipment malfunctions, even though it has delivered over 200 cargoes of LNG worth around $17 billion to buyers since 2022.
“Venture Global continues to enjoy robust commercial, financial, and regulatory support," Sabel told Reuters. "We are moving full steam ahead in the development and execution of Calcasieu Pass, Plaquemines and CP2," he said, referring to its initial three projects.
In all, the company is developing gas-export projects that could supply 100 million metric tons of LNG per year (MTPA), nearly 10 times the capacity of Calcasieu Pass.
Shell has said Venture Global's actions were deceitful. Spanish energy giant Repsol, a long-term customer, has asked U.S. regulators to review the plant's commissioning process. U.S. LNG pioneer Charif Souki has described Venture Global LNG's spot market sales as an egregious failure of its business responsibilities.
SELLING TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER
The long-term customers claim the company sold cargoes into the spot market at higher prices than it would have received from their contracts, sales they say allowed Venture Global to capitalize on the rally in global gas markets and Europe’s demand for alternative supplies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
With Calcasieu Pass not fully operating, Venture Global is rebutting the claims in a London court arguing it is under no obligation to supply LNG to Shell, BP, Repsol, Galp Energia, and Edison .
Venture Global LNG said it is offering potential new customers for Plaquemines and CP2 the same terms it did for the Calcasieu Pass facility at the center of the dispute.
The Plaquemines project has been greenlit and construction proceeding toward a 2024 start of commercial operations. A third LNG storage tank had its roof installed last week and four of what could be 24 liquefaction trains have arrived at the construction site, Venture Global said.
The third project on its drawing board, CP2, could get its financial go-ahead later this year. Venture Global said it has contracts for nearly half that plant's 20 MPTA capacity and expects CP2's capacity to be sold out before the end of 2023.
It has raised $44 billion in financing for its projects with customer terms standard for the industry, said spokesperson Shaylyn Haynes. She dismissed the customer complaints as a response to its upstart role.
The company is closely held and not required to disclose customer names or contract terms. But in June, it announced a deal with Germany's Securing Energy for Europe GmbH (SEFE) to supply 2.25 million metric tons per annum from the CP2 project.
"SEFE is confident that it has negotiated the SPA (sale and purchase agreement) and analyzed the relevant issues in a robust manner, and in line with its usual policy governing the entering into agreements of this type," SEFE said.
Chevron (CVX.N) also signed long-term SPAs for the purchase of 2 MTPA, in equal amounts from the proposed Plaquemines and CP2 facilities. Chevron evaluated project risks in making its selection, a spokesperson said.
(Reporting by Curtis Williams in Houston; Editing by David Gregorio and Marguerita Choy)