Grounded Offshore Rig Limits Sabine Pass Ship Traffic

The U.S. Coast Guard said on Monday that a large semi-submersible rig drifted into and ran aground in the Sabine Bank Channel, limiting vessels entering the Sabine-Neches Waterway to those with a maximum draft of 32 feet (9.8 meters).

The waterway sits on the Texas-Louisiana border and connects the Gulf of Mexico to Cheniere Energy Inc's Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant and to oil refineries in Port Arthur and Beaumont, Texas.

That area is west of where two hurricanes struck in recent weeks. Nearby refineries are owned by Exxon Mobil Corp, Valero Energy Corp, Total SA, and others.

The semi-submersible rig, called the Jasminia, drifted into the Sabine Bank Channel and ran aground on Friday, a Coast Guard spokesman said. The rig had housed offshore workers in the past. The owner's identity was not immediately available.

"The owner has initiated response efforts. Personnel are on board the rig. Salvage plans are being developed," the spokesman said.

Two LNG tankers were docked at the Sabine Pass LNG plant, according to data from Refinitiv. One tanker, the Flex Resolute, arrived on Friday night, and was drafting about 30 feet (9 meters) when it arrived.

The Coast Guard could not say whether Jasminia would prevent Flex Resolute or the second tanker, Palu LNG, from exiting the channel. Palu LNG arrived on Thursday and was drafting around 32 feet before picking up a cargo, according to Refinitiv data.

The Coast Guard could not say when the Jasminia will be removed.

Cheniere's Sabine Pass plant is the biggest in the United States with a capacity of 3.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of natural gas. The plant was pulling in about 2.6 bcfd of feedgas on Monday.

One billion cubic feet is enough gas to supply about 5 million U.S. homes for a day.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino, additional reporting by Erwin Seba Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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