U.S. liquefied natural gas company Cheniere Energy Inc said on Tuesday it temporarily suspended operations and evacuated personnel at its Sabine Pass LNG export terminal in Louisiana as Hurricane Laura churns toward the plant site.

Cheniere closes Louisiana Sabine Pass LNG plant ahead of Hurricane Laura

Laura is expected to strengthen into a major Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour) before hitting the coast near the Texas-Louisiana border early Thursday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Sabine Pass, in Louisiana near the border with Texas, is the biggest LNG export plant in the United States.

Two other LNG export plants are located near where Laura is expected to make landfall.

Cameron LNG said it plans to run the Cameron plant in Louisiana at “a reduced rate with a ride-out team of essential operations personnel.”

Freeport LNG, a little further from where the hurricane is expected to hit, said it also plans to operate its Freeport plant in Texas, noting that adjustments will be made if necessary.

The amount of pipeline gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants was on track to fall to a two-week low of 4.1 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) on Tuesday as vessels carrying LNG steered clear of the hurricane. [NGA/]

On a monthly basis, however, higher gas prices in Europe and Asia caused U.S. LNG exports to rise in August for the first time in six months. U.S. exports had dropped as demand plunged during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pipeline gas flowing to the U.S. plants climbed to an average of 4.5 bcfd this month, according to Refinitiv, up from a 21-month low of 3.3 bcfd in July.

Gulf of Mexico oil production shutdowns, meanwhile, approached the level of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina as coastal refiners scramble to cut processing ahead of Laura.

Source: Cheniere