By Victor V. Saulon

UP to seven companies have signified their intention to participate in the plan of the Department of Energy (DoE) to build a terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) under its recently issued guidelines.

“I think the last count was six or seven,” DoE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi told reporters, adding that the interested entities have simply expressed their intent or interest in pursuing the integrated LNG terminal project.

He did not identify whether the companies are local, foreign or a consortium of both, and that none had submitted a formal proposal yet.

A source at the DoE’s Oil Industry Management Bureau confirmed that seven companies had separate “pre-conference” meetings with the office and two more are scheduled to have theirs in the coming days.

Mr. Cusi has said that he wanted an integrated LNG terminal to be built during the Duterte administration’s term to help boost energy security for the country. The terminal will allow the importation of natural gas, condensed in liquid form for portability, and a facility that will allow its regasification.

Plans call for a pipeline for the distribution of the fuel to other parts of the country, and the construction of a power plant.

“PNOC (Philippine National Oil Co.) is also aspiring to be the natural gas terminal operator, and PNOC is looking for a partner,” Mr. Cusi said, referring to the DoE’s commercial arm.

He said about 30 groups had expressed interest in partnering with PNOC, which is now evaluating the proposals from a shortlist of five entities, among them South Korean, Chinese and Japanese proponents and a consortium of other groups, including one with Russian interest.

The Asian Development Bank has been chosen as the project advisory institution, he added.

“Based on the PNGR (Philippine Natural Gas Regulation) anyone who has the qualifications can participate but there will be one that will be allowed to put [up] that terminal, be it a consortium or single company,” he said.

He said PNOC would like to be the operator of the terminal, but it needs a partner with technical and commercial expertise to do so. Once the state commercial company finds a partner, it will submit its proposal to the DoE, just like the others that expressed their intent to participate.

“PNOC will be like the others, and DoE will evaluate the project,” Mr. Cusi said. “PNOC, as a government corporation, is looking at that as a business. So PNOC will be competing [with the others].”

He said PNOC’s advantage over the others is its franchise for the gas pipelines. He said he was still looking at June 2018 to break ground on the LNG project.