Sempra Energy has received federal approval to export natural gas to its terminal near Ensenada, Mexico, for conversion to liquefied natural gas (LNG) and shipping to foreign shores. The San Diego corporation announced the news late March 31.

Sempra’s Mexican terminal is called ECA, short for Energía Costa Azul. Sempra plans to build export facilities at the site 15 miles north of Ensenada.

The approvals cover countries that do not have free trade agreements with the United States.

“The timing of these approvals is great news as we meet with customers and partners this week in Shanghai,” said Joseph Householder, Sempra’s chief operating officer. “ECA LNG’s location on the West Coast of North America is truly a differentiator and it has the potential to be a game changer. ECA LNG will source natural gas from some of the fastest-growing production regions in the U.S. and provide our customers with a competitive advantage in accessing world markets, especially Asia.”

Sempra noted that China is the world's fastest growing LNG market.

According to Sempra (NYSE: SRE), the ECA LNG Phase 1 development opportunity is a single production line (called a train) to be located next to an existing LNG receipt terminal. It is expected to utilize current LNG storage tanks, marine berth and associated facilities. Phase 2 of the project would add two trains and one LNG storage tank.

The U.S. Department of Energy authorizations allow the export of 636 billion cubic feet a year of U.S. sourced LNG from these infrastructure projects. Phase 2 of the project will require additional department approval.