Cheniere Energy Wins Federal Approval to Export Natural Gas

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The United States has taken a huge step toward energy independence. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given the go-ahead for Cheniere Energy (AMEX: LNG  ) to build a liquefied natural gas export terminal. With this, another regulatory hurdle has been cleared.

Light at the end of the tunnel?
The natural-gas glut in North America has been a cause of concern for producers, and related operators, as supply seems to have overshot demand. The obvious result was a gradual decline in natural-gas prices in the country. However, Cheniere sought to take the bull by its horns. The solution to the problem was simple: Sell the commodity in markets where it costs more. And so the company hit upon the idea to export natural gas after liquefying it.

First-mover advantage
A couple of weeks back I spoke about why Cheniere Energy is the next natural-gas stock to own. The biggest advantage this company currently holds is its first-mover status in exporting natural gas. Currently, liquefied natural gas sells for around $16 per MmBtu in Asia, a huge premium from $2/MmBtu in the U.S.

In line with this, Cheniere will build the $10 billion export facility in the Sabine Pass, next to its import terminal. The company expects LNG exports to commence by 2015. It plans to build four LNG trains (or liquefaction facilities), each with a production capacity of 4.5 million tonnes per annum. That's equivalent to 219 billion cubic feet of natural gas being liquefied. The LNG terminal is operated by subsidiary Cheniere Energy Partners (AMEX: CQP  ) , in which Cheniere Energy holds a 91% stake.

Don't forget these players
No doubt there will be other players lining up to export LNG in the near future. However, the biggest beneficiaries will be natural-gas producers such as Ultra Petroleum (NYSE: UPL  ) and Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN  ) . Inevitably, as demand for the commodity rises, prices will start moving north. Ultra Petroleum has a reputation of being a low-cost producer of natural gas, and could stand to gain in a big way. Devon, on the other hand, holds substantial natural-gas reserves in the U.S. While Devon recently increased liquids production and positioned itself as an onshore player, natural gas still constitutes 65% of its overall production.

Foolish bottom line
The potential for Cheniere by virtue of the recent approval is huge. However, investors will have to be patient, as exporting of LNG will not start before 2015. Right now, the deal is still on paper. But things are definitely moving in the right direction. To see whether Cheniere can cash in, add the stock to your free Watchlist.

Meanwhile, if you like energy stocks, we've got a stock idea that could knock your socks off. Read about it right here in The Motley Fool's special free report on the energy industry and its best prospects. It's free for a limited time, so click here today.

Fool contributor Isac Simon does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ultra Petroleum and Devon Energy. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Ultra Petroleum and Devon Energy. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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