Action on North American liquified-natural-gas export-terminal projects accelerated late last month as regulators advanced projects on the Pacific coast and U.S. politicians debated faster approvals as a "geopolitical tool" to counter Russia's moves in the Ukraine.

On March 24, the estimated $7.7-billion Jordan Cove Energy terminal in Coos Bay, Ore., became the first LNG project on the West Coast—and the first greenfield project in the U.S.—to win conditional U.S. Energy Dept. approval for export to countries without a free-trade agreement. Previous approvals were of import terminals converting to exports on the East and Gulf coasts.

The project, being developed by Alberta-based Veresen, still needs other approvals before construction can begin, but unions estimate it will create up to 3,000 jobs.

Canadian regulators must review Jordan Cove since Veresen plans to import gas for liquefaction and export. Canada did approve, on March 26, export licenses for four LNG projects proposed in British Columbia. Proponents claim shipments can reach Asian markets about a month faster than from the Gulf of Mexico.

Sterne Agee E&C analyst Michael Dudas notes three congressional hearings during the week of March 24 that focused on expedited DOE review of 24 pending export projects.

He says eased constraints "could have a significant impact" on project financing, final investment decisions and contracts.

But Dudas adds that attendees were divided on whether faster U.S. natural-gas exports will deter Russia, and opponents argued exports could hurt U.S. manufacturing and job growth.

Meanwhile, Credit Suisse analyst Jamie Cook reported a March 26 multi-year award of undisclosed value to KBR by Shell Global Solutions International to support front-end design of onshore LNG projects worldwide, which gives the firm "a competitive lead for the EPC phase," she says.

Cook says 12 other firms competed for the contract.