LNG terminals benefit from the low cost of natural gas.

The surge in shale-gas extraction around the U.S. has caused a worldwide rush to obtain cheap U.S. natural gas. Now, to answer this demand, major energy companies are scrambling to convert existing liquefied natural gas, or LNG, import terminals into export terminals.

On Nov. 14, 2011, Houston-based Cheniere Energy awarded Bechtel a $3.9-billion engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for two new liquefaction trains at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Cameron Parish, La. Bechtel previously built the facility as an LNG receiving facility (above).

In January, Freeport LNG Expansion LP awarded Zachry Industrial Inc. and CB&I Inc. a front-end engineering and design contract for the Freeport Liquefaction Project near Freeport, Texas. Also, on April 27, Foster Wheeler was awarded an owner's engineer contract for a new LNG liquefaction project in Hackberry, La., by Cameron LNG LLC.

On April 16, Sabine Pass became the first of the terminals to get the go-ahead from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, says Bill Dudley, Bechtel's president. He says the plan is to have the facility running at full capacity by 2016.

"These are really big jobs, so it is not like construction will start tomorrow," says Keith Manning, CEO of Zachry Holdings Inc. Zachry is considering preparing EPC bids on both the Freeport and Cameron projects, Manning says.