Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Two Gas Tankers Are Sitting in Harvey's Path to Louisiana Coast

  • Maran Gas Achilles and Yari LNG are near Sabine Pass terminal
  • Cheniere has kept plant running despite Harvey’s rains, winds

As Tropical Storm Harvey barrels back toward the Gulf Coast, threatening the region with more storm surges and heavy flooding, two liquefied natural gas tankers are floating in its path just off the shores of Louisiana.

The vessels, Maran Gas Achilles and Yari LNG, were close to the Sabine Pass terminal that Cheniere Energy Inc. uses to liquefy U.S. shale gas for export abroad, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg late Tuesday. Harvey was forecast to move right over them before making landfall along Louisiana’s coast early Wednesday.

The tankers and continuing gas pipeline shipments to the Sabine Pass terminal have confounded traders looking to bet on how Harvey’s strong winds and pouring rain will affect demand from the nation’s biggest gas consumer. The company said Tuesday that the plant’s still liquefying gas, filling storage tanks even as the region’s ports shut. The vessels nearby may signal the company’s intent to keep business going and squeeze in vessel loadings as soon as the weather clears, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

If there is a ship approaching, said Jacob Fericy, a New York-based energy analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, “it could be anticipating an opening.”

The tankers’ owners couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Sabine Pass, Texas, in 2016.

Sabine Pass, Texas, in 2016.

Photographer: Lindsey Janies/Bloomberg

Energy data provider Genscape Inc. estimated Tuesday that the Sabine Pass terminal had two days to load a ship before tanks are full and the company has to suspend production. “Otherwise they will need to shut-in,” the firm said. Scheduled gas deliveries to the plant for Wednesday were down 17 percent, at the lowest level in almost a week, pipeline data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The Sabine Pass terminal wasn’t in the direct path of Harvey when it was still a hurricane and slammed into Texas’s coast last week. Cheniere supplied workers with water, food and supplies at the plant to keep it running, and the company’s supply and trading team worked to keep gas flowing. The storm’s record rainfall had meanwhile forced shut pipelines delivering gas to other areas of Texas.

Read more: Hurricane Harvey Just Broke Another Rainfall Record in Texas

“We are monitoring marine traffic, the weather, and coordinating with and following all instructions from the port authority, and will respond accordingly to safely schedule deliveries,” Cheniere spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said by email Tuesday.

It typically takes 15 hours to fill up a tanker that’s capable of holding 170,000 meters of gas -- and a full day if you count the time it takes for the ship to move in and out of port and to cool and to prepare loading equipment, Burnham-Snyder said. Sabine Pass can load two tankers at once, he said.

If Maran Gas Achilles and Yari LNG are indeed looking to load at the terminal, they may be waiting for a while. Sabine Pilots, which guide vessels in the waterway, suspended boardings on Aug. 25 and may not resume traffic until Thursday, Daniel Dubois, the group’s chief dispatcher, said by phone late Tuesday. 

“I would be surprised if anything moves tomorrow,” he said.

— With assistance by Brian K Sullivan, and Dave Merrill

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