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Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum on Tuesday announced a final decision to finance a $10 billion-plus project to export liquefied natural gas from the Texas Gulf Coast.
The decision moves forward the latest export terminal fueling growing shipments of U.S. LNG, or natural gas cooled to liquid form, for overseas travel. The Department of Energy last month forecast that LNG will play a major role in the U.S. exporting more energy than it imports by 2020, a feat the nation has not achieved in nearly 70 years.
The plan to export LNG from Exxon's Golden Pass terminal speaks to the renaissance in U.S. energy production. The facility was originally built to import LNG, but the surge in U.S. natural gas production over the last decade means American drillers are now looking overseas for buyers.
Exxon says work to retool the terminal near Port Arthur, Texas, along the Louisiana border will begin this quarter. The oil giant expects the facility to start up in 2024 and says it will ultimately be able to produce roughly 16 million tons of LNG each year.
Total U.S. LNG exports were 14.3 million tons in 2017 and climbed to 15 million tons through the first three quarters of 2018, according to Reuters. Trade in LNG reached nearly 300 million tons in 2017 and is growing, particularly in Asia, where China is switching from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas to improve air quality.
The shipping channel that straddles the Texas-Louisiana border is already home to the Sabine Pass LNG terminal operated by Cheniere, the first mover in the emerging Gulf Coast export hub.
Exxon's partner in the Golden Pass project, state energy company Qatar Petroleum, holds a 70 percent stake in the development. Qatar, the world's top LNG producer, recently left the oil producer group OPEC, saying it would focus on expanding its natural gas business.
Exxon holds the remaining 30 percent stake in the project, part of its plan to invest $50 billion in U.S. manufacturing facilities over the next five years, with a focus on the Gulf Coast. The company expects the terminal to support 200 permanent jobs and 9,000 positions while it's under construction.
"Golden Pass will provide an increased, reliable, long-term supply of liquefied natural gas to global gas markets, stimulate local growth and create thousands of jobs," Exxon Chairman and CEO Darren Woods said in a press release.
Exxon and Qatar Petroleum have previously worked together in Argentina, Brazil and Mozambique.