One of the largest US plants that produces liquefied natural gas for export has been damaged by an explosion and fire, forcing the Texas Gulf Coast facility to cease operations in a move expected to affect European and Asian markets.
“As a result of today’s fire, Freeport LNG’s liquefaction facility is currently shut down and will remain shut down for a minimum of three weeks,” the company announced on Wednesday night, providing no further details.
Earlier in the day, the company acknowledged an “incident” at its facility in Quintana, some 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of Houston, but said none of the employees were injured, and that there was no risk to the community.
The exact cause of the fire and extent of the damage remain unclear. After some witnesses reported a loud bang and a large fireball in the area, aerial footage captured by local TV broadcasters showed firefighters at the facility, but there were no signs of open flames.
The Freeport facility supercools and liquifies about 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, or roughly 20% of the entire US export capacity. Overall, American LNG exports were around 9.75bcf per day in 2021, hitting a record total of 100 billion cubic meters that year, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Local US natural gas prices tumbled more than 6% on Wednesday, but the incident is expected to have the opposite effect and wider ramifications for global markets.