UPDATE 2-U.S. regulators approve Cheniere LNG export plant
* Cheniere can now build Sabine Pass export plant
* First U.S. plant of its kind in 50 years
* Political opposition could delay others
By Edward McAllister and Ayesha Rascoe
April 16 (Reuters) - U.S. regulators on Monday approved the country's first liquefied natural gas export plant in nearly 50 years, which will open up cheap and abundant American supplies to importers across the globe.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval paves the way for construction to begin at Cheniere Energy's LNG plant at Sabine Pass, Louisiana, which will chill natural gas to a liquid for shipping overseas by as early as 2015.
It marks a huge turnaround for the U.S. energy market that five years ago was scrambling to build gas import terminals before shale gas drilling provided decades of domestic reserves. Analysts say the project alone will do little to alleviate the glut in supplies that have sent domestic prices to 10-year lows, however.
The FERC ruling comes as U.S. natural gas inventories are set to spill over due to record high production from newly developed gas deposits.
A string of export projects have been proposed in the United States to supply thirsty markets in Europe and Asia where gas prices are up to seven or eight times higher. Continued...