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Eight vessels stalled at Sabine Pass over draft restrictions

HOUSTON/NEW YORK, (Reuters) - Eight vessels were stalled at the Sabine Pass Channel on the Texas-Louisiana border after draft restrictions were put in place this week to allow search operations for a displaced pipeline, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Prolonged restrictions could force Cheniere Energy Inc to shut or slow operations at its Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas export terminal, analysts said on Friday.

One LNG, one liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and two oil tankers were waiting to leave Sabine Pass, while one LNG and three oil tankers were waiting to enter the channel, a Coast Guard spokesman said.

Port Arthur’s Vessel Traffic Service implemented draft restrictions earlier this week after a ship pulled some 1,000 feet of a 24-inch dredge pipeline out toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Although draft, the minimum depth a ship can safety navigate, has been increased to 37 feet from 32 feet earlier this week, portions of the line remain missing and surveys of the Port Arthur Canal and Sabine Pass Channel are ongoing, the Coast Guard said.

It was unclear when restrictions would be lifted, it added.

Analysts said gas could continue to flow into Sabine at the current rate of about 2.1 billion cubic feet per day for three to five days before its storage tanks and the two vessels at the plant are full.

One billion cubic feet is enough to fuel about 5 million U.S. homes for a day.

Officials at Cheniere said Thursday the Coast Guard restrictions were not then affecting operations at Sabine.

The two vessels at its terminal, Ribera Duero Knutsen and Maran Gas Agamemnon, each have a capacity of about 3.6 bcf, according to Reuters data.

The amount of gas flowing into Sabine fell to 2.1 bcfd on Tuesday from 2.7 bcfd on Monday. Genscape said that was due to an outage at the fourth liquefaction train at Sabine.

As of early Friday, however, Genscape said its cameras showed Sabine 4 started to show signs of life.

Reuters data showed flows into Sabine returned to 2.7 bcfd on Friday.

The total capacity of the five storage tanks at Cheniere’s Sabine terminal is about 17 bcf. Two of those tanks have been shut for repairs, limiting total storage to around 10.2 bcf, according to Genscape.

Reuters estimated Sabine already had about 3.8 bcf of gas in the tanks, while Genscape estimated there was about 2 bcf.

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