HOUSTON (Reuters) -BP, Edison and Shell pressed a U.S.-EU energy group to intervene in a dispute with liquefied natural gas exporter Venture Global LNG over the U.S. firm's failure to deliver contract supplies of the fuel.
The companies appealed to the U.S.-EU Task Force on Energy Security last month, and a Shell executive urged them to require Venture Global LNG to "immediately begin to perform" under their signed contracts.
The three are among at least four customers of the Arlington, Virginia, firm pursuing contract arbitration claims over a lack of gas supplies. Venture Global LNG has said the Louisiana plant is not fully operational due to faulty power equipment that is being repaired.
Their appeals sought to get The Hague and Washington to pressure Venture Global LNG on the contracts. In its letter, Shell accused Venture Global LNG of diverting resources into building a second LNG export plant rather than completing repairs to its first plant.
The behavior "has shaken confidence in the trustworthiness of American LNG suppliers," BP executive Carol Howle wrote in a separate letter. Whether the plant should be allowed to operate and export under rules governing construction should be explored by officials, she added.
NO ACTION BY TASK FORCE
Officials from the EU and U.S. indicated they view the dispute as "a contractual matter between commercial parties," a Venture Global LNG spokesperson said on Saturday. No action was taken on Shell's request at an Oct. 30 task force meeting.
A Shell spokesman said on Saturday it was not expecting an immediate reaction by the task force, and wanted to bring a potential loss of trust in U.S. LNG to officials' attention. BP declined comment apart from its letter. Utility giant Edison did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the weekend.
Venture Global LNG is operating the Calcasieu Pass plant at capacity, it has told U.S. regulators. And it has sold more than 200 cargoes worth about $18.2 billion to date, according to a Reuters tally. Those sales reaped higher prices than would be available under the four firms' long-term contracts.
Shell and others claim the firm has profited from the rally in global gas markets while short-changing Europe's energy security. They have been told they will not receive their contracted amounts until late 2024.
BP and Shell have bought gas from the plant and sold it outside of Europe while citing Europe's energy security in letters to the U.S.-EU task force, Venture Global LNG said. The company is "diligently working toward full completion." It did not say when full commercial operation would begin.
"Shell has purchased 7 commissioning cargoes from Venture Global and 3 of them were traded outside of Europe for higher profits. Similarly, BP has purchased 6 commissioning cargos, and 2 have been traded to destinations outside of Europe," according to a Nov. 10 letter signed by Venture Global Co-Chairman Michael Sabel and Robert Pender.
The exporter is in compliance with terms of its contracts and the criticisms by BP and Shell represent an attempt to "litigate this through our regulators and in the media," the letter said.
The appeal to the U.S.-EU task force also follows Repsol's bid to have the U.S. energy regulator Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reopen its approval of the Calcasieu plant in view of the startup problems. That request was rejected.
(Reporting by Gary McWilliams; editing by Diane Craft)