LONDON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Tellurian, which is developing a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project on the U.S. Gulf Coast, has signed a preliminary deal to supply LNG to commodities trader Vitol.
The deal prices the LNG against Platt's Japan Korea Marker (JKM), the first time the daily assessment of spot LNG prices in northern Asia has been used for a long-term offtake agreement, according to S&P Global Platts.
In the United States, such long-term deals, critical to the financing of export terminals, are priced against the U.S. Henry Hub gas price. Most deals elsewhere are priced against oil, while some are priced against other natural gas hubs.
The memorandum of understanding (MoU) is Tellurian's first preliminary offtake deal for its Driftwood LNG project. An MoU usually leads to a binding Sales and Purchasing Agreement (SPA).
Vitol aims to buy 1.5 million tonnes a year (mtpa) of LNG from Driftwood for 15 years once operations begin. The export terminal in Louisiana aims to have a capacity of 27.6 mtpa and to start operations by 2023.
"Vitol is evaluating a potential equity investment in the Driftwood Holdings partnership," Tellurian said in a statement.
Tellurian's co-founder is Charif Souki, a former head of Cheniere, which operates the largest U.S. LNG export facility at Sabine Pass and another in Texas. He is known for taking unconventional approaches towards this project.
Tellurian at one point offered equity interest in Driftwood at a set price per tonne of LNG delivered, which it said would remove the risk of volatile LNG prices for customers.
Pricing U.S. LNG to the Asian-based price marker has implications for how and where the LNG cargoes will be traded.
U.S. Gulf Coast plants are seen as better placed to send LNG to Europe, where pricing is often set against local gas hubs, although the Asian market can by reached via the Panama Canal.
Tellurian had previously said it was in talks with about 25 prospective customers including Total, General Electric and Bechtel, which has a $15.2 billion contract to build the LNG terminal.
Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki Editing by Edmund Blair