At least one liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessel gave up on Freeport LNG's export plant in Texas by Thursday after a growing number of analysts and other sources said the facility would likely not exit its seven-month outage until February or later.
The Wilforce vessel, which was expected to reach Freeport in late January, changed its destination to Spain, according to ship tracking data from Refinitiv.
Last week, at least two vessels, Elisa Larus and Corcovado LNG, also changed their destinations from Freeport to other ports.
Although Freeport LNG on Thursday said that the plant is still on track to restart in the second half of January, pending regulatory approvals, that timeline has been delayed many times from October to November to December and most recently to January.
Freeport has not yet filed a request with federal regulators to restart the plant, a source familiar with the company's filings said earlier this week. Federal regulators must approve the restart before the plant, which shut in a fire on June 8, 2022, returns to service.
Even when the company was saying that the plant could restart in 2022, many analysts projected that it would likely take Freeport until the first or second quarter of 2023 to get the plant ready due to the large amount of work needed to satisfy federal regulators, including training staff in new safety procedures.
Separately, small amounts of pipeline natural gas that started flowing to Freeport on Jan. 14 to maintain a flare system were on track to stop flowing on Thursday, according to Refinitiv data.
Even though some vessels have turned away from Freeport, a few tankers, including Prism Diversity, Prism Courage and Prism Agility, were still waiting in the Gulf of Mexico to pick up LNG from the plant. Some have been there since early November.
In addition, at least two vessels, Prism Brilliance and Kmarin Diamond, were still sailing toward Freeport and are expected to reach the plant in late January.
(Reuters - Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Mark Porter)