* U.S. gas prices have fallen since construction began
* More test cargoes could absorb some extra Qatari LNG
(Adds background, details, graphics)
By Daniel Fineren and Edward McAllister
LONDON/NEW YORK, Oct 6 (Reuters) - The new U.S. Golden Pass liquefied natural gas terminal is to receive its first cargo aboard Qatari tanker Al Khuwair this month, the terminal operator said on Wednesday.
AIS Live ship tracking data on Reuters showed the vessel was due to arrive in the United States on Oct. 20, while Golden Pass declined to comment on the expected arrival date.
The Golden Pass LNG terminal near Port Arthur, Texas — where construction was delayed by hurricane damage sustained in 2008 — has yet to get permission to import the first of a number of expected test cargoes after applying to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in late September. [ID:nN27270284]
The start-up of Golden Pass LNG — a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum (70 percent), ExxonMobil (XOM.N) (17.6 percent) and ConocoPhillips (COP.N) (12.4 percent) — could absorb some LNG that is expected to enter an already well supplied global market as big Qatari production facilities open in the next few months. [ID:nTOE68S05M]
Work on Golden Pass began in 2006 before the United States lost much of its appetite for imported gas because of a surge in North American shale gas production, which has left many LNG producers scrambling for new markets and most terminals on the U.S. Gulf Coast sitting idle for months.
With U.S. LNG imports hitting a 2.5-year low in August, [ID:nN05184901] some terminal operators have resorted to re-exporting LNG to higher-paying markets. [ID:nN05209009] <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Graph showing slide in U.S. gas prices since 2006:
Graphic showing relative current profits for Qatari LNG:
Factbox on Qatar’s LNG projects: [ID:nLDE68S0CI] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^> Al Khuwair can hold 210,000 cubic metres of super-cooled gas and was last tracked by AIS near Algiers in the western Mediterranean on Wednesday.
Golden Pass can process the equivalent of about 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day.
Analysts say it could need up to five test cargoes to prepare for commercial operation, but the operator has declined to comment.
Editing by Jane Baird