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Gulf Coast LNG owner banks on Department of Energy approvals

A company that wants to build the largest facility in the nation to export American natural gas has revealed more details about its plans in a new filing with the Department of Energy.

Gulf Coast LNG Export LLC, which wants to send 2.8 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas a day overseas, disclosed that Michael S. Smith is a 97 percent owner and that its proposed export terminal would be located in Brownsville, Texas.

As first reported in the Tribune-Review on Dec. 28, Gulf Coast LNG Export plans to sell natural gas to any country willing to buy it and not specifically on a U.S. black list.

At that time, the DOE declined to release details about Gulf Coast LNG, saying its export application was incomplete and needed clarification.

Smith is also founder and the current CEO of Freeport LNG Development, L.P., which also wants to export a total 2.8 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas per day from a Texas terminal. Smith was the founder and former chairman of Basin Exploration Co. He could not be reached for comment.

Freeport and partners originally applied to export 1.4 billion cubic feet of U.S. natural gas per day, but added a new application in December to export another 1.4 billion cubic feet a day.

If both export applications are approved by DOE, Smith could oversee a total of about 5.6 billion cubic feet in natural gas exports.

The two Freeport applications are among nine filed with the federal government that collectively would send about one fifth of American natural gas -- or a total of about 12.5 billion cubic feet a day -- to countries in Asia, Europe and elsewhere. That figure is based on current production levels and the current number of export applications, which could change.

The government has approved only one of the applications amid concern that the impact on American jobs and natural gas prices from exporting such a total is not known. The DOE has commissioned two studies to try to clarify the effects.

The first of those studies by the Energy Information Administration should be out within a week, John Anderson, manager of natural gas regulatory activities at the DOE's Office of Fossil Fuels, told the Tribune-Review on Tuesday.

A second study by a private consultant that will use the EIA figures will "take some time," he added.

Dominion Resources Inc. of Virginia has applied to export natural gas from a facility at Cove Point, Md. Gas to be exported from Cove Point would come from the Marcellus and other fields in or close to Pennsylvania.

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