ITEMS 1. AND 2. BUSINESS AND PROPERTIES
We are a publicly traded Delaware limited partnership formed by Cheniere in 2006. We provide clean, secure and affordable LNG to integrated energy companies, utilities and energy trading companies around the world. We aspire to conduct our business in a safe and responsible manner, delivering a reliable, competitive and integrated source of LNG to our customers.
LNG is natural gas (methane) in liquid form. The LNG we produce is shipped all over the world, turned back into natural gas (called “regasification”) and then transported via pipeline to homes and businesses and used as an energy source that is essential for heating, cooking and other industrial uses. Natural gas is a cleaner-burning, abundant and affordable source of energy. When LNG is converted back to natural gas, it can be used instead of coal, which reduces the amount of pollution traditionally produced from burning fossil fuels, like sulfur dioxide and particulate matter that enters the air we breathe. Additionally, compared to coal, it produces significantly fewer carbon emissions. By liquefying natural gas, we are able to reduce its volume by 600 times so that we can load it onto special LNG carriers designed to keep the LNG cold and in liquid form for efficient transport overseas.
The natural gas liquefaction and export facility at Sabine Pass, Louisiana (the “Sabine Pass LNG terminal”), one of the largest LNG production facilities in the world, is located in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, and has natural gas liquefaction facilities consisting of six operational Trains, with Train 6 which achieved substantial completion on February 4, 2022, for a total production capacity of approximately 30 mtpa of LNG (the “Liquefaction Project”). The Sabine Pass LNG terminal also has operational regasification facilities that include five LNG storage tanks with aggregate capacity of approximately 17 Bcfe, two existing marine berths and one under construction that can each accommodate vessels with nominal capacity of up to 266,000 cubic meters and vaporizers with regasification capacity of approximately 4 Bcf/d. We also own a 94-mile pipeline through our subsidiary, CTPL, that interconnects the Sabine Pass LNG terminal with a number of large interstate pipelines (the “Creole Trail Pipeline”).
Our customer arrangements provide us with significant, stable and long-term cash flows. As further discussed below, we contract our anticipated production capacity under SPAs, in which our customers are generally required to pay a fixed fee with respect to the contracted volumes irrespective of their election to cancel or suspend deliveries of LNG cargoes, We have contracted approximately 75% of the total production capacity from the Liquefaction Project through long-term SPAs, with approximately 16 years of weighted average remaining life as of December 31, 2021, which includes volumes contracted under SPAs in which the customers are required to pay a fixed fee with respect to the contracted volumes irrespective of their election to cancel or suspend deliveries of LNG cargoes. For further discussion of the contracted future cash flows under our revenue arrangements, see Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources.
We remain focused on operational excellence and customer satisfaction. Increasing demand for LNG has allowed us to expand our liquefaction infrastructure in a financially disciplined manner. We have increased available liquefaction capacity at our Liquefaction Project as a result of debottlenecking and other optimization projects. We hold a significant land position at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal, which provides opportunity for further liquefaction capacity expansion. The development of these sites or other projects, including infrastructure projects in support of natural gas supply and LNG demand, will require, among other things, acceptable commercial and financing arrangements before we can make a final investment decision (“FID”).
Additionally, we are committed to the responsible and proactive management of our most important environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) impacts, risks and opportunities. Cheniere published its 2020 Corporate Responsibility (“CR”) report, which details our strategy and progress on ESG issues, as well as our efforts on integrating climate considerations into our business strategy and taking a leadership position on increased environmental transparency, including conducting a climate scenario analysis and our plan to provide LNG customers with Cargo Emission Tags. In August 2021, Cheniere also announced a peer-reviewed LNG life cycle assessment study which allows for improved greenhouse gas emissions assessment, which was published in the American Chemical Society Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering Journal. Cheniere’s CR report is
available at cheniere.com/IMPACT. Information on our website, including the CR report, is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Our Business Strategy
Our primary business strategy is to develop, construct and operate assets supported by long-term, fixed fee contracts. We plan to implement our strategy by:
•safely, efficiently and reliably operating and maintaining our assets, including our Trains;
•procuring natural gas and pipeline transport capacity to our facility;
•commencing commercial delivery for our long-term SPA customers, of which we have initiated for seven of eight third party long-term SPA customers as of December 31, 2021;
•maximizing the production of LNG to serve our customers and generating steady and stable revenues and operating cash flows;
•optimizing the Liquefaction Project by leveraging existing infrastructure;
•maintaining a prudent and cost-effective capital structure; and
•strategically identifying actionable environmental solutions.
The Liquefaction Project is one of the largest LNG production facilities in the world. We operate six Trains, including Train 6 which achieved substantial completion on February 4, 2022, and two marine berths, and are constructing a third marine berth. The SPL Project has a lump sum turnkey contract with Bechtel Oil, Gas and Chemicals, Inc. (“Bechtel”) for the EPC of Train 6. The following table summarizes the project completion and construction status of Train 6 of the Liquefaction Project as of December 31, 2021:
|Overall project completion percentage||99.5%|
|Completion percentage of:|
|Date of substantial completion||February 4, 2022|
The following summarizes the volumes of natural gas for which we have received approvals from FERC to site, construct and operate the Liquefaction Project and the orders we have received from the DOE authorizing the export of domestically produced LNG by vessel from the Sabine Pass LNG terminal through December 31, 2050:
|FERC Approved Volume||DOE Approved Volume|
|(in Bcf/yr)||(in mtpa)||(in Bcf/yr)||(in mtpa)|
|Non-FTA countries||1,661.94||33||1,509.3 (1)||30|
(1)The authorization for an additional 152.64 Bcf/yr (approximately 3 mtpa) of natural gas is currently pending.
Natural Gas Supply, Transportation and Storage
SPL has secured natural gas feedstock for the Sabine Pass LNG terminal through long-term natural gas supply agreements. Additionally, to ensure that SPL is able to transport natural gas feedstock to the Sabine Pass LNG terminal and manage inventory levels, it has entered into transportation precedent and other agreements to secure firm pipeline transportation and storage capacity from third-parties.
The Sabine Pass LNG terminal has operational regasification capacity of approximately 4 Bcf/d and aggregate LNG storage capacity of approximately 17 Bcfe. SPLNG has entered into two long-term, third party TUAs, under which SPLNG’s customers are required to pay fixed monthly fees, whether or not they use the approximately 2 Bcf/d of aggregate capacity they have reserved at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal. The remaining approximately 2 Bcf/d of capacity has been reserved under a TUA by SPL.
The following table shows customers with revenues of 10% or greater of total revenues from external customers:
|Percentage of Total Revenues from External Customers|
|Year Ended December 31,|
BG Gulf Coast LNG, LLC
GAIL (India) Limited
Korea Gas Corporation
Naturgy LNG GOM, Limited
TotalEnergies Gas & Power North America, Inc.
* Less than 10%
All of the above customers contribute to our LNG revenues through SPA contracts.
The Sabine Pass LNG terminal and the Creole Trail Pipeline are subject to extensive regulation under federal, state and local statutes, rules, regulations and laws. These laws require that we engage in consultations with appropriate federal and state agencies and that we obtain and maintain applicable permits and other authorizations. These rigorous regulatory requirements increase the cost of construction and operation, and failure to comply with such laws could result in substantial penalties and/or loss of necessary authorizations.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
The design, construction, operation, maintenance and expansion of the Sabine Pass LNG terminal, the import or export of LNG and the purchase and transportation of natural gas in interstate commerce through the Creole Trail Pipeline are highly regulated activities subject to the jurisdiction of the FERC pursuant to the Natural Gas Act of 1938, as amended (the “NGA”). Under the NGA, the FERC’s jurisdiction generally extends to the transportation of natural gas in interstate commerce, to the sale for resale of natural gas in interstate commerce, to natural gas companies engaged in such transportation or sale and to the construction, operation, maintenance and expansion of LNG terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines.
The FERC’s authority to regulate interstate natural gas pipelines and the services that they provide generally includes regulation of:
•rates and charges, and terms and conditions for natural gas transportation, storage and related services;
•the certification and construction of new facilities and modification of existing facilities;
•the extension and abandonment of services and facilities;
•the administration of accounting and financial reporting regulations, including the maintenance of accounts and records;
•the acquisition and disposition of facilities;
•the initiation and discontinuation of services; and
•various other matters.
Under the NGA, our pipeline is not permitted to unduly discriminate or grant undue preference as to rates or the terms and conditions of service to any shipper, including its own marketing affiliate. Those rates, terms and conditions must be public, and on file with the FERC. In contrast to pipeline regulation, the FERC does not require LNG terminal owners to provide open-access services at cost-based or regulated rates. Although the provisions that codified FERC’s policy in this area expired on January 1, 2015, we see no indication that the FERC intends to change its policy in this area. On February 18, 2022, FERC updated its 1999 Policy Statement on certification of new interstate natural gas facilities and the framework for FERC’s decision-making process, which would now include, among other things, reasonably foreseeable greenhouse gas emissions that may be attributable to the project and the project’s impact on environmental justice communities. These FERC changes are the first revision in more than 20 years to FERC’s policy for the certification of new interstate natural gas pipeline projects under Section 7 of the NGA. The updated Policy Statement has more limited applicability to LNG projects regulated under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act. While the impact on our future projects and expansions is not known at this time, we do not expect it to have a material adverse effect on our operations.
We are permitted to make sales of natural gas for resale in interstate commerce pursuant to a blanket marketing certificate granted by the FERC with the issuance of our Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to our marketing affiliates. Our sales of natural gas will be affected by the availability, terms and cost of pipeline transportation. As noted above, the price and terms of access to pipeline transportation are subject to extensive federal and state regulation.
In order to site, construct and operate the Sabine Pass LNG terminal, we received and are required to maintain authorizations from the FERC under Section 3 of the NGA as well as other material governmental and regulatory approvals and permits. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (the “EPAct”) amended Section 3 of the NGA to establish or clarify the FERC’s exclusive authority to approve or deny an application for the siting, construction, expansion or operation of LNG terminals, unless specifically provided otherwise in the EPAct, amendments to the NGA. For example, nothing in the EPAct amendments to the NGA were intended to affect otherwise applicable law related to any other federal agency’s authorities or responsibilities related to LNG terminals or those of a state acting under federal law.
The FERC issued its final Order Granting Section 3 Authority (“Order”) in April 2012 approving our application for an order under Section 3 of the NGA authorizing the siting, construction and operation of Trains 1 through 4 of the Liquefaction Project (and related facilities). Subsequently, in May 2012, the FERC issued written approval to commence site preparation work for Trains 1 through 4. In October 2012, we applied to amend the FERC approval to reflect certain modifications to the Liquefaction Project, and in August 2013, the FERC issued an Order approving the modifications. In October 2013, we applied to further amend the FERC approval, requesting authorization to increase the total permitted LNG production capacity of Trains 1 through 4 from the then authorized 803 Bcf/yr to 1,006 Bcf/yr so as to more accurately reflect the estimated maximum LNG production capacity of Trains 1 through 4. In February 2014, the FERC issued an order approving the October 2013 application (the “February 2014 Order”). A party to the proceeding requested a rehearing of the February 2014 Order, and in September 2014, the FERC issued an order denying the rehearing request (the “FERC Order Denying Rehearing”). The party petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the February 2014 Order and the FERC Order Denying Rehearing. The court denied the petition in June 2016. In September 2013, we filed an application with the FERC for authorization to add Trains 5 and 6 to the Liquefaction Project, which was granted by the FERC in an Order issued in April 2015 and an Order denying rehearing issued in June 2015. These Orders are not subject to appellate court review. In October of 2018, SPL applied to the FERC for authorization to add a third marine berth to the Liquefaction Project, which FERC approved in February of 2020. FERC issued written approval to commence site preparation work for the third berth in June 2020.
The Creole Trail Pipeline, which interconnects with the Sabine Pass LNG terminal, holds a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the FERC under Section 7 of the NGA. The FERC’s approval under Section 7 of the NGA, as well as several other material governmental and regulatory approvals and permits, is required prior to making any modifications
to the Creole Trail Pipeline as it is a regulated, interstate natural gas pipeline. In February 2013, the FERC approved CTPL’s application for authorization to construct, own, operate and maintain certain new facilities in order to enable bi-directional natural gas flow on the Creole Trail Pipeline system to allow for the delivery of up to 1,530,000 Dekatherms per day of feed gas to the Sabine Pass LNG terminal. In November 2013, CTPL received approval from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (“LDEQ”) for the proposed modifications and construction was completed in 2015. In September 2013, as part of the Application for Trains 5 and 6, we filed an application with the FERC for authorization to construct and operate an extension and expansion of Creole Trail Pipeline and related facilities in order to deliver additional domestic natural gas supplies to the Sabine Pass LNG terminal, which was granted by the FERC in an order issued in April 2015 and an order denying rehearing issued in June 2015. These orders are not subject to appellate court review.
On September 27, 2019, SPL filed a request with the FERC pursuant to Section 3 of the NGA, requesting authorization to increase the total LNG production capacity of the terminal from currently authorized levels to an amount which reflects more accurately the capacity of the facility based on enhancements during the engineering, design and construction process, as well as operational experience to date. The requested authorizations do not involve construction of new facilities. Corresponding applications for authorization to export the incremental volumes were also submitted to the DOE. The DOE issued Orders granting authorization to export LNG to FTA countries in April 2020. The DOE authorization for export to non-FTA countries is still pending. In October 2021, the FERC issued its Orders Amending Authorization under Section 3 of the NGA.
The FERC’s Standards of Conduct apply to interstate pipelines that conduct transmission transactions with an affiliate that engages in natural gas marketing functions. The general principles of the FERC Standards of Conduct are: (1) independent functioning, which requires transmission function employees to function independently of marketing function employees; (2) no-conduit rule, which prohibits passing transmission function information to marketing function employees; and (3) transparency, which imposes posting requirements to detect undue preference due to the improper disclosure of non-public transmission function information. We have established the required policies, procedures and training to comply with the FERC’s Standards of Conduct.
All of our FERC construction, operation, reporting, accounting and other regulated activities are subject to audit by the FERC, which may conduct routine or special inspections and issue data requests designed to ensure compliance with FERC rules, regulations, policies and procedures. The FERC’s jurisdiction under the NGA allows it to impose civil and criminal penalties for any violations of the NGA and any rules, regulations or orders of the FERC up to approximately $1.3 million per day per violation, including any conduct that violates the NGA’s prohibition against market manipulation.
Several other material governmental and regulatory approvals and permits will be required throughout the life of our LNG terminal and the Creole Trail Pipeline. In addition, our FERC orders require us to comply with certain ongoing conditions, reporting obligations and maintain other regulatory agency approvals throughout the life of our LNG terminal and Creole Trail Pipeline. For example, throughout the life of our LNG terminal and the Creole Trail Pipeline, we are subject to regular reporting requirements to the FERC, the Department of Transportation’s (“DOT”) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) and applicable federal and state regulatory agencies regarding the operation and maintenance of our facilities. To date, we have been able to obtain and maintain required approvals as needed, and the need for these approvals and reporting obligations have not materially affected our construction or operations.
DOE Export Licenses
The DOE has authorized the export of domestically produced LNG by vessel from the Sabine Pass LNG terminal as discussed in Liquefaction Facilities. Although it is not expected to occur, the loss of an export authorization could be a force majeure event under our SPAs.
Under Section 3 of the NGA applications for exports of natural gas to FTA countries, which allow for national treatment for trade in natural gas, are “deemed to be consistent with the public interest” and shall be granted by the DOE without “modification or delay.” FTA countries currently recognized by the DOE for exports of LNG include Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Peru, Republic of Korea and Singapore. FTAs with Israel and Costa Rica do not require national treatment for trade in natural gas. Applications for export of LNG to non-FTA countries are considered by the DOE in a notice and comment proceeding whereby the public and other interveners are provided the opportunity to comment and may assert that such authorization would not be consistent with the public interest.
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
Our LNG terminal as well as the Creole Trail Pipeline are subject to regulation by PHMSA. PHMSA is authorized by the applicable pipeline safety laws to establish minimum safety standards for certain pipelines and LNG facilities. The regulatory standards PHMSA has established are applicable to the design, installation, testing, construction, operation, maintenance and management of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline facilities and LNG facilities that affect interstate or foreign commerce. PHMSA has also established training, worker qualification and reporting requirements.
PHMSA performs inspections of pipeline and LNG facilities and has authority to undertake enforcement actions, including issuance of civil penalties up to approximately $225,000 per day per violation, with a maximum administrative civil penalty of approximately $2.25 million for any related series of violations.
Other Governmental Permits, Approvals and Authorizations
Construction and operation of the Sabine Pass LNG terminal requires additional permits, orders, approvals and consultations to be issued by various federal and state agencies, including the DOT, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE”), U.S. Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”), U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the LDEQ.
The USACE issues its permits under the authority of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) (Section 404) and the Rivers and Harbors Act (Section 10). The EPA administers the Clean Air Act (“CAA”), and has delegated authority to the LDEQ to issue the Title V Operating Permit (the “Title V Permit”) and the Prevention of Significant Deterioration Permit (the “PSD Permit”). These two permits are issued by the LDEQ for the Sabine Pass LNG terminal and CTPL.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”)
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”) amended the Commodity Exchange Act to provide for federal regulation of the over-the-counter derivatives market and entities, such as us, that participate in those markets. The CFTC has enacted a number of regulations pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, including the speculative position limit rules which became effective on March 15, 2021 and have a phased-in compliance date that began on January 1, 2022. Given the recent enactment of the speculative position limit rules, as well as the impact of other rules and regulations under the Dodd-Frank Act, the impact of such rules and regulations on our business continues to be uncertain.
As required by the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFTC and federal banking regulators also adopted rules requiring Swap Dealers (as defined in the Dodd-Frank Act), including those that are regulated financial institutions, to collect initial and/or variation margin with respect to uncleared swaps from their counterparties that are financial end users, registered swap dealers or major swap participants. These rules do not require collection of margin from non-financial-entity end users who qualify for the end user exception from the mandatory clearing requirement or from non-financial end users or certain other counterparties in certain instances. We qualify as a non-financial-entity end user with respect to the swaps that we enter into to hedge our commercial risks.
Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFTC adopted additional anti-manipulation and anti-disruptive trading practices regulations that prohibit, among other things, manipulative, deceptive or fraudulent schemes or material misrepresentation in the futures, options, swaps and cash markets. In addition, separate from the Dodd-Frank Act, our use of futures and options on commodities is subject to the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC regulations, as well as the rules of futures exchanges on which any of these instruments are executed. Should we violate any of these laws and regulations, we could be subject to a CFTC or an exchange enforcement action and material penalties, possibly resulting in changes in the rates we can charge.
The Sabine Pass LNG terminal is subject to various federal, state and local laws and regulations relating to the protection of the environment and natural resources. These environmental laws and regulations require significant expenditures for compliance, can affect the cost and output of operations and may impose substantial penalties for non-compliance and substantial liabilities for pollution. Many of these laws and regulations, such as those noted below, restrict or prohibit impacts to the environment or the types, quantities and concentration of substances that can be released into the environment and can lead to substantial administrative, civil and criminal fines and penalties for non-compliance.
Clean Air Act
The Sabine Pass LNG terminal is subject to the federal CAA and comparable state and local laws. We may be required to incur certain capital expenditures over the next several years for air pollution control equipment in connection with maintaining or obtaining permits and approvals addressing air emission-related issues. We do not believe, however, that our operations, or the construction and operations of our liquefaction facilities, will be materially and adversely affected by any such requirements.
In 2009, the EPA promulgated and finalized the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule requiring annual reporting of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from stationary sources in a variety of industries. In 2010, the EPA expanded the rule to include reporting obligations for LNG terminals. In addition, the EPA has defined GHG emissions thresholds that would subject GHG emissions from new and modified industrial sources to regulation if the source is subject to PSD Permit requirements due to its emissions of non-GHG criteria pollutants. While the EPA subsequently took a number of additional actions primarily relating to GHG emissions from the electric power generation and the oil and gas exploration and production industries, those rules were largely stayed or repealed during the Trump Administration including by amendments adopted by the EPA on February 23, 2018 and additional amendments to new source performance standards for the oil and gas industry on September 14 and 15, 2020. On November 15, 2021, the EPA proposed new regulations to reduce methane emissions from both new and existing sources within the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category. The proposed regulations if finalized, would result in more stringent requirements for new sources, expand the types of new sources covered, and for the first time, establish emissions guidelines for existing sources in the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category. We are supportive of regulations reducing GHG emissions over time.
From time to time, Congress has considered proposed legislation directed at reducing GHG emissions. In addition, many states have already taken regulatory action to monitor and/or reduce emissions of GHGs, primarily through the development of GHG emission inventories or regional GHG cap and trade programs. It is not possible at this time to predict how future regulations or legislation may address GHG emissions and impact our business. However, future regulations and laws could result in increased compliance costs, the imposition of taxes or fees related to GHG emissions or additional operating restrictions and could have a material adverse effect on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects.
Coastal Zone Management Act (“CZMA”)
The siting and construction of the Sabine Pass LNG terminal within the coastal zone is subject to the requirements of the CZMA. The CZMA is administered by the states (in Louisiana, by the Department of Natural Resources and in Texas by the General Land Office). This program is implemented to ensure that impacts to coastal areas are consistent with the intent of the CZMA to manage the coastal areas.
Clean Water Act
The Sabine Pass LNG terminal is subject to the federal CWA and analogous state and local laws. The CWA imposes strict controls on the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters of the United States, including discharges of wastewater and storm water runoff and fill/discharges into waters of the United States. Permits must be obtained prior to discharging pollutants into state and federal waters. The CWA is administered by the EPA, the USACE and by the states (in Louisiana, by the LDEQ). The CWA regulatory programs, including the Section 404 dredge and fill permitting program and Section 401 water quality certification program carried out by the states, are frequently the subject of shifting agency interpretations and legal challenges, which at times can result in permitting delays.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”)
The federal RCRA and comparable state statutes govern the generation, handling and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes and require corrective action for releases into the environment. When such wastes are generated in connection with the operations of our facilities, we are subject to regulatory requirements affecting the handling, transportation, treatment, storage and disposal of such wastes.
Protection of Species, Habitats and Wetlands
Various federal and state statutes, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the CWA and the Oil Pollution Act, prohibit certain activities that may adversely affect endangered or threatened animal, fish and plant species and/or their designated habitats, wetlands, or other natural resources. If the Sabine Pass LNG terminal or the Creole Trail Pipeline adversely affect a protected species or its habitat, we may be required to develop and follow a plan to avoid those impacts. In that case, siting, construction or operation may be delayed or restricted and cause us to incur increased costs.
It is not possible at this time to predict how future regulations or legislation may address protection of species, habitats and wetlands and impact our business. However, we do not believe that our operations, or the construction and operations of the Sabine Pass LNG terminal, will be materially and adversely affected by such regulatory actions.
Market Factors and Competition
Our ability to enter into additional long-term SPAs to underpin the development of additional Trains, sale of LNG by Cheniere Marketing, or development of new projects is subject to market factors. These factors include changes in worldwide supply and demand for natural gas, LNG and substitute products, the relative prices for natural gas, crude oil and substitute products in North America and international markets, the rate of fuel switching for power generation from coal, nuclear or oil to natural gas, economic growth in developing countries and other related factors such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Cheniere’s ability to obtain additional funding to execute its business strategy is subject to the investment community’s appetite for investment in LNG and natural gas infrastructure and Cheniere’s ability to access capital markets.
We expect that global demand for natural gas and LNG will continue to increase as nations seek more abundant, reliable and environmentally cleaner fuel alternatives to oil and coal. Players around the globe have shown commitments to environmental goals consistent with many policy initiatives that we believe are constructive for LNG demand and infrastructure growth. Currently, significant amounts of money are being invested across Europe and Asia in natural gas projects under construction, and more continues to be earmarked to planned projects globally. Some examples include India’s commitment to invest over $60 billion to usher a gas-based economy, around $100 billion earmarked for Europe’s gas infrastructure buildout, and China’s hundreds of billions all along the natural gas value chain. We highlight regasification capacity, which will not only expand existing import capacities in rapidly growing markets like China and India, but also add new import markets all over the globe, raising the total number of markets to approximately 60 by 2030 from 43 in 2020 and just 15 markets as recently as 2005.
As a result of these dynamics, global demand for natural gas is projected by the International Energy Agency to grow by approximately 20 trillion cubic feet (“Tcf”) between 2020 and 2030 and 33 Tcf between 2020 and 2040. LNG’s share is seen growing from about 11% in 2020 to about 12% of the global gas market in 2030 and 14% in 2040. Wood Mackenzie Limited (“WoodMac”) forecasts that global demand for LNG will increase by approximately 57%, from 366.6 mtpa, or 17.6 Tcf, in 2020, to 576.5 mtpa, or 27.7 Tcf, in 2030 and to 734.5 mtpa or 35.3 Tcf in 2040. WoodMac also forecasts LNG production from existing operational facilities and new facilities already under construction will be able to supply the market with approximately 517 mtpa in 2030, declining to 456 mtpa in 2040. This could result in a market need for construction of an additional approximately 60 mtpa of LNG production by 2030 and about 279 mtpa by 2040. As a cleaner burning fuel with far lower emissions than coal or liquid fuels in power generation, we expect gas and LNG to play a central role in balancing grids and contributing to a low carbon energy system globally. We believe the capital and operating costs of the uncommitted capacity of our Liquefaction Projects is competitive with new proposed projects globally and we are well-positioned to capture a portion of this incremental market need.
Our LNG terminal business has limited exposure to oil price movements as we have contracted a significant portion of our LNG production capacity under long-term sale and purchase agreements. These agreements contain fixed fees that are required to be paid even if the customers elect to cancel or suspend delivery of LNG cargoes. We have contracted approximately 75% of the total production capacity from the Liquefaction Project through long-term SPAs, with approximately 16 years of weighted average remaining life as of December 31, 2021, which includes volumes contracted under SPAs in which the customers are required to pay a fixed fee with respect to the contracted volumes irrespective of their election to cancel or suspend deliveries of LNG cargoes.
When SPL needs to replace any existing SPA or enter into new SPAs, SPL will compete on the basis of price per contracted volume of LNG with other natural gas liquefaction projects throughout the world, including our affiliate Corpus Christi Liquefaction, LLC (“CCL”), which operates three Trains at a natural gas liquefaction facility near Corpus Christi, Texas. Revenues associated with any incremental volumes of the Liquefaction Project, including those under the Cheniere Marketing SPA, will also be subject to market-based price competition. Many of the companies with which we compete are major energy corporations with longer operating histories, more development experience, greater name recognition, greater financial, technical and marketing resources and greater access to LNG markets than us.
SPLNG currently does not experience competition for its terminal capacity because the entire approximately 4 Bcf/d of regasification capacity that is available at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal has been fully contracted. If and when SPLNG has to replace any TUAs, it will compete with other then-existing LNG terminals for customers.
Our assets are generally held by our subsidiaries. We conduct most of our business through these subsidiaries, including the development, construction and operation of our LNG terminal business.
We have no employees. We rely on our general partner to manage all aspects of the development, construction, operation and maintenance of the Sabine Pass LNG terminal and the Liquefaction Project and to conduct our business. Because our general partner has no employees, it relies on subsidiaries of Cheniere to provide the personnel necessary to allow it to meet its management obligations to us, SPLNG, SPL and CTPL. As of January 31, 2022, Cheniere and its subsidiaries had 1,550 full-time employees, including 513 employees who directly supported the Sabine Pass LNG terminal operations. See Note 14—Related Party Transactions of our Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for a discussion of the services agreements pursuant to which general and administrative services are provided to us, SPLNG, SPL and CTPL.
Our common units have been publicly traded since March 21, 2007 and are traded on the NYSE American under the symbol “CQP.” Our principal executive offices are located at 700 Milam Street, Suite 1900, Houston, Texas 77002, and our telephone number is (713) 375-5000. Our internet address is www.cheniere.com. We provide public access to our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to these reports as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file those materials with, or furnish those materials to, the SEC under the Exchange Act. These reports may be accessed free of charge through our internet website. We make our website content available for informational purposes only. The website should not be relied upon for investment purposes and is not incorporated by reference into this Form 10-K.
We will also make available to any unitholder, without charge, copies of our annual report on Form 10-K as filed with the SEC. For copies of this, or any other filing, please contact: Cheniere Energy Partners, L.P, Investor Relations Department, 700 Milam Street, Suite 1900, Houston, Texas 77002 or call (713) 375-5000. The SEC maintains an internet site (www.sec.gov) that contains reports and other information regarding issuers.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
Limited partner interests are inherently different from the capital stock of a corporation, although many of the business risks to which we are subject are similar to those that would be faced by a corporation engaged in a similar business. The following are some of the important factors that could affect our financial performance or could cause actual results to differ materially from estimates or expectations contained in our forward-looking statements. We may encounter risks in addition to those described below. Additional risks and uncertainties not currently known to us, or that we currently deem to be immaterial, may also impair or adversely affect our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flows, liquidity and prospects.
The risk factors in this report are grouped into the following categories:
Risks Relating to Our Financial Matters
Our existing level of cash resources and significant debt could cause us to have inadequate liquidity and could materially and adversely affect our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects.
As of December 31, 2021, we had $0.9 billion of cash and cash equivalents, $0.1 billion of restricted cash and cash equivalents, a total of $1.6 billion of available commitments under our credit facilities and $17.3 billion of total debt outstanding on a consolidated basis (before unamortized premium, discount and debt issuance costs). SPL and CQP operate with independent capital structures as further detailed in Note 11—Debt of our Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements. We incur, and will incur, significant interest expense relating to the assets at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal. Our ability to refinance our indebtedness will depend on our ability to access additional project financing as well as the debt and equity capital markets. A variety of factors beyond our control could impact the availability or cost of capital, including domestic or international economic conditions, increases in key benchmark interest rates and/or credit spreads, the adoption of new or amended banking or capital market laws or regulations and the repricing of market risks and volatility in capital and financial markets. Our financing costs could increase or future borrowings or equity offerings may be unavailable to us or unsuccessful, which could cause us to be unable to pay or refinance our indebtedness or to fund our other liquidity needs. We also rely on borrowings under our credit facilities to fund our capital expenditures. If any of the lenders in the syndicates backing these facilities was unable to perform on its commitments, we may need to seek replacement financing, which may not be available as needed, or may be available in more limited amounts or on more expensive or otherwise unfavorable terms.
Our ability to generate cash is substantially dependent upon the performance by customers under long-term contracts that we have entered into, and we could be materially and adversely affected if any significant customer fails to perform its contractual obligations for any reason.
Our future results and liquidity are substantially dependent upon performance by our customers to make payments under long-term contracts. As of December 31, 2021, we had SPAs with terms of 10 or more years with a total of eight different third party customers. In addition, SPLNG had TUAs with two third party customers.
While substantially all of our long-term third party customer arrangements are executed with a creditworthy parent company or secured by a parent company guarantee or other form of collateral, we are nonetheless exposed to credit risk in the event of a customer default that requires us to seek recourse.
Additionally, our long-term SPAs entitle the customer to terminate their contractual obligations upon the occurrence of certain events which include, but are not limited to: (1) if we fail to make available specified scheduled cargo quantities; (2) delays in the commencement of commercial operations; and (3) under the majority of our SPAs upon the occurrence of certain
events of force majeure. Under each of SPLNG’s long-term TUAs, such termination events include, but are not limited to: if the Sabine Pass LNG terminal (1) experiences a force majeure delay for longer than 18 months; (2) fails to redeliver a specified amount of natural gas in accordance with the customer’s redelivery nominations; or (3) fails to accept and unload a specified number of the customer’s proposed LNG cargoes.
Although we have not had a history of material customer default or termination events, the occurrence of such events are largely outside of our control and may expose us to unrecoverable losses. We may not be able to replace these customer arrangements on desirable terms, or at all, if they are terminated. As a result, our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
Our subsidiaries may be restricted under the terms of their indebtedness from making distributions to us under certain circumstances, which may limit our ability to pay or increase distributions to our unitholders and could materially and adversely affect the market price of our common units.
The agreements governing our subsidiaries’ indebtedness restrict payments that our subsidiaries can make to us in certain events and limit the indebtedness that our subsidiaries can incur. For example, SPL is restricted from making distributions under agreements governing its indebtedness generally until, among other requirements, deposits are made into debt service reserve accounts and a debt service coverage ratio of 1.25:1.00 is satisfied.
Our subsidiaries’ inability to pay distributions to us or to incur additional indebtedness as a result of the foregoing restrictions in the agreements governing their indebtedness may inhibit our ability to pay or increase distributions to our unitholders, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects.
Restrictions in agreements governing our subsidiaries’ indebtedness may prevent our subsidiaries from engaging in certain beneficial transactions, which could materially and adversely affect us.
In addition to restrictions on the ability of us and SPL to make distributions or incur additional indebtedness, the agreements governing their indebtedness also contain various other covenants that may prevent them from engaging in beneficial transactions, including limitations on their ability to:
•make certain investments;
•purchase, redeem or retire equity interests;
•issue preferred stock;
•sell or transfer assets;
•enter into transactions with affiliates;
•consolidate, merge, sell or lease all or substantially all of its assets; and
•enter into sale and leaseback transactions.
Any restrictions on the ability to engage in beneficial transactions could materially and adversely affect us.
Risks Relating to Our Operations and Industry
Catastrophic weather events or other disasters could result in an interruption of our operations, a delay in the completion of our Liquefaction Project, damage to our Liquefaction Project and increased insurance costs, all of which could adversely affect us.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Hurricane Ike in 2008, Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020 and Winter Storm Uri in 2021 caused interruptions or temporary suspension in construction or operations at our facilities or caused minor damage to our facilities. In August 2020, SPL entered into an arrangement with its affiliate to provide the ability, in limited circumstances, to potentially fulfill commitments to LNG buyers from the other facility in the event operational conditions impact operations at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal or at its affiliate’s terminal. During the year ended
December 31, 2021, eight TBtu was loaded at affiliate facilities pursuant to this agreement. Future storms and related storm activity and collateral effects, or other disasters such as explosions, fires, floods or accidents, could result in damage to, or interruption of operations at, the Sabine Pass LNG terminal or related infrastructure, as well as delays or cost increases in the construction and the development of our other facilities and increase our insurance premiums. The U.S. Global Change Research Program has reported that the U.S.’s energy and transportation systems are expected to be increasingly disrupted by climate change and extreme weather events. An increase in frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as storms, floods, fires and rising sea levels could have an adverse effect on our operations.
Disruptions to the third party supply of natural gas to our pipeline and facilities could have a material adverse effect on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects.
We depend upon third party pipelines and other facilities that provide gas delivery options to our Liquefaction Project and to and from the Creole Trail Pipeline. If the construction of new or modified pipeline connections is not completed on schedule or any pipeline connection were to become unavailable for current or future volumes of natural gas due to repairs, damage to the facility, lack of capacity, failure to replace contracted firm pipeline transportation capacity on economic terms, or any other reason, our ability to receive natural gas volumes to produce LNG or to continue shipping natural gas from producing regions or to end markets could be adversely impacted. Any significant disruption to our natural gas supply could result in a substantial reduction in our revenues under our long-term SPAs or other customer arrangements, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects.
We may not be able to purchase or receive physical delivery of sufficient natural gas to satisfy our delivery obligations under the SPAs, which could have a material adverse effect on us.
Under the SPAs with our customers, we are required to make available to them a specified amount of LNG at specified times. However, we may not be able to purchase or receive physical delivery of sufficient quantities of natural gas to satisfy those obligations, which may provide affected SPA customers with the right to terminate their SPAs. Our failure to purchase or receive physical delivery of sufficient quantities of natural gas could have a material adverse effect on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects.
We are subject to significant construction and operating hazards and uninsured risks, one or more of which may create significant liabilities and losses for us.
The construction and operation of the Sabine Pass LNG terminal and the operation of the Creole Trail Pipeline are, and will be, subject to the inherent risks associated with these types of operations, including explosions, breakdowns or failures of equipment, operational errors by vessel or tug operators, pollution, release of toxic substances, fires, hurricanes and adverse weather conditions and other hazards, each of which could result in significant delays in commencement or interruptions of operations and/or in damage to or destruction of our facilities or damage to persons and property. In addition, our operations and the facilities and vessels of third parties on which our operations are dependent face possible risks associated with acts of aggression or terrorism.
We do not, nor do we intend to, maintain insurance against all of these risks and losses. We may not be able to maintain desired or required insurance in the future at rates that we consider reasonable. The occurrence of a significant event not fully insured or indemnified against could have a material adverse effect on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects.
Cyclical or other changes in the demand for and price of LNG and natural gas may adversely affect our LNG business and the performance of our customers and could have a material adverse effect on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flows, liquidity and prospects.
Our LNG business and the development of domestic LNG facilities and projects generally is based on assumptions about the future availability and price of natural gas and LNG, and the prospects for international natural gas and LNG markets. Natural gas and LNG prices have been, and are likely to continue to be, volatile and subject to wide fluctuations in response to one or more of the following factors:
•competitive liquefaction capacity in North America;
•insufficient or oversupply of natural gas liquefaction or receiving capacity worldwide;
•insufficient LNG tanker capacity;
•weather conditions, including temperature volatility resulting from climate change, and extreme weather events may lead to unexpected distortion in the balance of international LNG supply and demand. For example, LNG procurement in Japan rose dramatically in 2011 and several years thereafter following a tsunami that caused extensive destruction to its nuclear power infrastructure;
•reduced demand and lower prices for natural gas;
•increased natural gas production deliverable by pipelines, which could suppress demand for LNG;
•decreased oil and natural gas exploration activities which may decrease the production of natural gas, including as a result of any potential ban on production of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing;
•cost improvements that allow competitors to provide natural gas liquefaction capabilities at reduced prices;
•changes in supplies of, and prices for, alternative energy sources such as coal, oil, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind and solar energy, which may reduce the demand for natural gas;
•changes in regulatory, tax or other governmental policies regarding imported or exported LNG, natural gas or alternative energy sources, which may reduce the demand for imported or exported LNG and/or natural gas;
•political conditions in natural gas producing regions;
•sudden decreases in demand for LNG as a result of natural disasters or public health crises, including the occurrence of a pandemic, and other catastrophic events;
•adverse relative demand for LNG compared to other markets, which may decrease LNG imports into or exports from North America; and
•cyclical trends in general business and economic conditions that cause changes in the demand for natural gas.
Adverse trends or developments affecting any of these factors could result in decreases in the price of LNG and/or natural gas, which could materially and adversely affect the performance of our customers, and could have a material adverse effect on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flows, liquidity and prospects.
Failure of imported or exported LNG to be a competitive source of energy for the United States or international markets could adversely affect our customers and could materially and adversely affect our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects.
Operations of the Liquefaction Project are dependent upon the ability of our SPA customers to deliver LNG supplies from the United States, which is primarily dependent upon LNG being a competitive source of energy internationally. The success of our business plan is dependent, in part, on the extent to which LNG can, for significant periods and in significant volumes, be supplied from North America and delivered to international markets at a lower cost than the cost of alternative energy sources. Through the use of improved exploration technologies, additional sources of natural gas may be discovered outside the United States, which could increase the available supply of natural gas outside the United States and could result in natural gas in those markets being available at a lower cost than LNG exported to those markets.
Although SPL has entered into arrangements to utilize up to approximately three-quarters of the regasification capacity at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal in connection with operations of the Liquefaction Project, operations at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal are dependent, in part, upon the ability of our TUA customers to import LNG supplies into the United States, which is primarily dependent upon LNG being a competitive source of energy in North America. In North America, due mainly to a historically abundant supply of natural gas and discoveries of substantial quantities of unconventional, or shale, natural gas, imported LNG has not developed into a significant energy source. The success of the regasification services component of our business plan is dependent, in part, on the extent to which LNG can, for significant periods and in significant volumes, be produced internationally and delivered to North America at a lower cost than the cost to produce some domestic supplies of natural gas, or other alternative energy sources. Through the use of improved exploration technologies, additional sources of natural gas have recently been and may continue to be discovered in North America, which could further increase the available supply of natural gas and could result in natural gas being available at a lower cost than imported LNG.
Political instability in foreign countries that import or export natural gas, or strained relations between such countries and the United States, may also impede the willingness or ability of LNG purchasers or suppliers and merchants in such countries to import or export LNG from or to the United States. Furthermore, some foreign purchasers or suppliers of LNG may have economic or other reasons to obtain their LNG from, or direct their LNG to, non-U.S. markets or from or to our competitors’ liquefaction or regasification facilities in the United States.
In addition to natural gas, LNG also competes with other sources of energy, including coal, oil, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind and solar energy. LNG from the Liquefaction Project also competes with other sources of LNG, including LNG that is priced to indices other than Henry Hub. Some of these sources of energy may be available at a lower cost than LNG from the Liquefaction Project in certain markets. The cost of LNG supplies from the United States, including the Liquefaction Project, may also be impacted by an increase in natural gas prices in the United States.
As a result of these and other factors, LNG may not be a competitive source of energy in the United States or internationally. The failure of LNG to be a competitive supply alternative to local natural gas, oil and other alternative energy sources in markets accessible to our customers could adversely affect the ability of our customers to deliver LNG from the United States or to the United States on a commercial basis. Any significant impediment to the ability to deliver LNG to or from the United States generally, or to the Sabine Pass LNG terminal or from the Liquefaction Project specifically, could have a material adverse effect on our customers and on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects.
We face competition based upon the international market price for LNG.
Our Liquefaction Project is subject to the risk of LNG price competition at times when we need to replace any existing SPA, whether due to natural expiration, default or otherwise, or enter into new SPAs. Factors relating to competition may prevent us from entering into a new or replacement SPA on economically comparable terms as existing SPAs, or at all. Such an event could have a material adverse effect on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects. Factors which may negatively affect potential demand for LNG from our Liquefaction Project are diverse and include, among others:
•increases in worldwide LNG production capacity and availability of LNG for market supply;
•increases in demand for LNG but at levels below those required to maintain current price equilibrium with respect to supply;
•increases in the cost to supply natural gas feedstock to our Liquefaction Project;
•decreases in the cost of competing sources of natural gas or alternate fuels such as coal, heavy fuel oil and diesel;
•decreases in the price of non-U.S. LNG, including decreases in price as a result of contracts indexed to lower oil prices;
•increases in capacity and utilization of nuclear power and related facilities; and
•displacement of LNG by pipeline natural gas or alternate fuels in locations where access to these energy sources is not currently available.
A cyber attack involving our business, operational control systems or related infrastructure, or that of third party pipelines which supply the Liquefaction Project, could negatively impact our operations, result in data security breaches, impede the processing of transactions or delay financial or compliance reporting. These impacts could materially and adversely affect our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow and liquidity.
The pipeline and LNG industries are increasingly dependent on business and operational control technologies to conduct daily operations. We rely on control systems, technologies and networks to run our business and to control and manage our pipeline, liquefaction and shipping operations. Cyber attacks on businesses have escalated in recent years, including as a result of geopolitical tensions, and use of the internet, cloud services, mobile communication systems and other public networks exposes our business and that of other third-parties with whom we do business to potential cyber attacks, including third party pipelines which supply natural gas to our Liquefaction Project. For example, in 2021 Colonial Pipeline suffered a ransomware attack that led to the complete shutdown of its pipeline system for six days. Should multiple of the third party pipelines which supply our Liquefaction Project suffer similar concurrent attacks, the Liquefaction Project may not be able to obtain sufficient
natural gas to operate at full capacity, or at all. A cyber attack involving our business or operational control systems or related infrastructure, or that of third party pipelines with which we do business, could negatively impact our operations, result in data security breaches, impede the processing of transactions, or delay financial or compliance reporting. These impacts could materially and adversely affect our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow and liquidity.
Outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as the outbreak of COVID-19, at our facilities could adversely affect our operations.
Our facilities at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal are critical infrastructure and have continued to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic through our implementation of workplace controls and pandemic risk reduction measures. While the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Delta and Omicron variants, has had no adverse impact on our on-going operations during this time, the risk of future variants is unknown. While we believe we can continue to mitigate any significant adverse impact to our employees and operations at our critical facilities related to the virus in its current form, the outbreak of a more potent variant in the future at one or more of our facilities could adversely affect our operations.
Risks Relating to Regulations
Failure to obtain and maintain approvals and permits from governmental and regulatory agencies with respect to the design, construction and operation of our facilities, the development and operation of our pipeline and the export of LNG could impede operations and construction and could have a material adverse effect on us.
The design, construction and operation of interstate natural gas pipelines, our LNG terminal, including the Liquefaction Project, and other facilities, as well as the import and export of LNG and the purchase and transportation of natural gas, are highly regulated activities. Approvals of the FERC and DOE under Section 3 and Section 7 of the NGA, as well as several other material governmental and regulatory approvals and permits, including several under the CAA and the CWA, are required in order to construct and operate an LNG facility and an interstate natural gas pipeline and export LNG.
To date, the FERC has issued orders under Section 3 of the NGA authorizing the siting, construction and operation of the six Trains and related facilities of the Liquefaction Project, as well as orders under Section 7 of the NGA authorizing the construction and operation of the Creole Trail Pipeline. To date, the DOE has also issued orders under Section 4 of the NGA authorizing SPL to export domestically produced LNG. Additionally, we hold certificates under Section 7(c) of the NGA that grant us land use rights relating to the situation of our pipeline on land owned by third parties. If we were to lose these rights or be required to relocate our pipelines, our business could be materially and adversely affected.
Authorizations obtained from the FERC, DOE and other federal and state regulatory agencies contain ongoing conditions that we must comply with. Failure to comply with such conditions, or our inability to obtain and maintain existing or newly imposed approvals and permits, filings, which may arise due to factors outside of our control such as a U.S. government disruption or shutdown, political opposition or local community resistance to the siting of LNG facilities due to safety, environmental or security concerns, could impede the operation and construction of our infrastructure. There is no assurance that we will obtain and maintain these governmental permits, approvals and authorizations, or that we will be able to obtain them on a timely basis. Any impediment could have a material adverse effect on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects.
Our Creole Trail Pipeline and its FERC gas tariff are subject to FERC regulation. If we fail to comply with such regulation, we could be subject to substantial penalties and fines.
The Creole Trail Pipeline is subject to regulation by the FERC under the NGA and the Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978 (the “NGPA”). The FERC regulates the purchase and transportation of natural gas in interstate commerce, including the construction and operation of pipelines, the rates, terms and conditions of service and abandonment of facilities. Under the NGA, the rates charged by our Creole Trail Pipeline must be just and reasonable, and we are prohibited from unduly preferring or unreasonably discriminating against any person with respect to pipeline rates or terms and conditions of service. If we fail to comply with all applicable statutes, rules, regulations and orders, our Creole Trail Pipeline could be subject to substantial penalties and fines.
In addition, as a natural gas market participant, should we fail to comply with all applicable FERC-administered statutes, rules, regulations and orders, we could be subject to substantial penalties and fines. Under the EPAct, the FERC has civil penalty authority under the NGA and the NGPA to impose penalties for current violations of up to $1.3 million per day for each violation.
Existing and future environmental and similar laws and governmental regulations could result in increased compliance costs or additional operating costs or construction costs and restrictions.
Our business is and will be subject to extensive federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations applicable to our construction and operation activities relating to, among other things, air quality, water quality, waste management, natural resources and health and safety. Many of these laws and regulations, such as the CAA, the Oil Pollution Act, the CWA and the RCRA, and analogous state laws and regulations, restrict or prohibit the types, quantities and concentration of substances that can be released into the environment in connection with the construction and operation of our facilities, and require us to maintain permits and provide governmental authorities with access to our facilities for inspection and reports related to our compliance. In addition, certain laws and regulations authorize regulators having jurisdiction over the construction and operation of our LNG terminal and pipeline, including FERC and PHMSA, to issue compliance orders, which may restrict or limit operations or increase compliance or operating costs. Violation of these laws and regulations could lead to substantial liabilities, compliance orders, fines and penalties or to capital expenditures that could have a material adverse effect on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects. Federal and state laws impose liability, without regard to fault or the lawfulness of the original conduct, for the release of certain types or quantities of hazardous substances into the environment. As the owner and operator of our facilities, we could be liable for the costs of cleaning up hazardous substances released into the environment at or from our facilities and for resulting damage to natural resources.
In 2009, the EPA promulgated and finalized the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule requiring annual reporting of GHG emissions from stationary sources in a variety of industries. In 2010, the EPA expanded the rule to include reporting obligations for LNG terminals. In addition, the EPA has defined GHG emissions thresholds that would subject GHG emissions from new and modified industrial sources to regulation if the source is subject to PSD Permit requirements due to its emissions of non-GHG criteria pollutants. While the EPA subsequently took a number of additional actions primarily relating to GHG emissions from the electric power generation and the oil and gas exploration and production industries, those rules were largely stayed or repealed during the Trump Administration including by amendments adopted by the EPA on February 23, 2018 and additional amendments to new source performance standards for the oil and gas industry on September 14 and 15, 2020. On November 15, 2021, the EPA proposed new regulations to reduce methane emissions from both new and existing sources within the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category. The proposed regulations, if finalized, would result in more stringent requirements for new sources, expand the types of new sources covered, and for the first time, establish emissions guidelines for existing sources in the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category. In addition, other federal and state initiatives may be considered in the future to address GHG emissions through, for example, United States treaty commitments, direct regulation, market-based regulations such as a carbon emissions tax or cap-and-trade programs or clean energy standards. Such initiatives could affect the demand for or cost of natural gas, which we consume at our terminals, or could increase compliance costs for our operations. We are supportive of regulations reducing GHG emissions over time.
Other future legislation and regulations, such as those relating to the transportation and security of LNG imported to or exported from the Sabine Pass LNG terminal or climate policies of destination countries in relation to their obligations under the Paris Agreement or other national climate change-related policies, could cause additional expenditures, restrictions and delays in our business and to our proposed construction activities, the extent of which cannot be predicted and which may require us to limit substantially, delay or cease operations in some circumstances. Revised, reinterpreted or additional laws and regulations that result in increased compliance costs or additional operating or construction costs and restrictions could have a material adverse effect on our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects.
Pipeline safety and compliance programs and repairs may impose significant costs and liabilities on us.
The PHMSA requires pipeline operators to develop management programs to safely operate and maintain their pipelines and to comprehensively evaluate certain areas along their pipelines and take additional measures where necessary to protect pipeline segments located in “high or moderate consequence areas” where a leak or rupture could potentially do the most harm. As an operator, we are required to:
•perform ongoing assessments of pipeline safety and compliance;
•identify and characterize applicable threats to pipeline segments that could impact a high consequence area;
•improve data collection, integration and analysis;
•repair and remediate the pipeline as necessary; and
•implement preventative and mitigating actions.
We are required to maintain pipeline integrity testing programs that are intended to assess pipeline integrity. Any repair, remediation, preventative or mitigating actions may require significant capital and operating expenditures. Should we fail to comply with applicable statutes and the Office of Pipeline Safety’s rules and related regulations and orders, we could be subject to significant penalties and fines, which for certain violations can aggregate up to as high as $2.3 million.
Risks Relating to Our Relationship with Our General Partner
We are entirely dependent on our general partner, Cheniere, including employees of Cheniere and its subsidiaries, for key personnel, and the unavailability of skilled workers or failure to attract and retain qualified personnel could adversely affect us. In addition, changes in our general partner’s senior management or other key personnel could affect our business results.
As of January 31, 2022, Cheniere and its subsidiaries had 1,550 full-time employees, including 513 employees who directly supported the Sabine Pass LNG terminal operations. We have contracted with subsidiaries of Cheniere to provide the personnel necessary for the operation, maintenance and management of the Sabine Pass LNG terminal, the Creole Trail Pipeline and construction and operation of the Liquefaction Project. We depend on Cheniere’s subsidiaries hiring and retaining personnel sufficient to provide support for the Sabine Pass LNG terminal. Cheniere competes with other liquefaction projects in the United States and globally, other energy companies and other employers to attract and retain qualified personnel with the technical skills and experience required to construct and operate our facilities and pipelines and to provide our customers with the highest quality service. We also compete with any other project Cheniere is developing, including its liquefaction project at Corpus Christi, Texas, for the time and expertise of Cheniere’s personnel. Further, we and Cheniere face competition for these highly skilled employees in the immediate vicinity of the Sabine Pass LNG terminal and more generally from the Gulf Coast hydrocarbon processing and construction industries.
The executive officers of our general partner are officers and employees of Cheniere and its affiliates. We do not maintain key person life insurance policies on any personnel, and our general partner does not have any employment contracts or other agreements with key personnel binding them to provide services for any particular term. The loss of the services of any of these individuals could have a material adverse effect on our business. In addition, our future success will depend in part on our general partner’s ability to engage, and Cheniere’s ability to attract and retain, additional qualified personnel.
A shortage in the labor pool of skilled workers, remoteness of our site locations, or other general inflationary pressures, changes in applicable laws and regulations or labor disputes could make it more difficult to attract and retain qualified personnel and could require an increase in the wage and benefits packages that are offered, thereby increasing our operating costs. Any increase in our operating costs could materially and adversely affect our business, contracts, financial condition, operating results, cash flow, liquidity and prospects.
Our general partner and its affiliates have conflicts of interest and limited fiduciary duties, which may permit them to favor their own interests to the detriment of us and our unitholders.
Cheniere owns and controls our general partner, which has sole responsibility for conducting our business and managing our operations. Some of our general partner’s directors are also directors of Cheniere, and certain of our general partner’s officers are officers of Cheniere. Therefore, conflicts of interest may arise between Cheniere and its affiliates, including our general partner, on the one hand, and us and our unitholders, on the other hand. In resolving these conflicts, our general partner may favor its own interests and the interests of its affiliates over the interests of us and our unitholders. These conflicts include, among others, the following situations:
•neither our partnership agreement nor any other agreement requires Cheniere to pursue a business strategy that favors us. Cheniere’s directors and officers have a fiduciary duty to make these decisions in favor of the owners of Cheniere, which may be contrary to our interests:
•our general partner controls the interpretation and enforcement of contractual obligations between us, on the one hand, and Cheniere, on the other hand, including provisions governing administrative services and acquisitions;
•our general partner is allowed to take into account the interests of parties other than us, such as Cheniere and its affiliates, in resolving conflicts of interest, which has the effect of limiting its fiduciary duty to us and our unitholders;
•our general partner has limited its liability and reduced its fiduciary duties under the partnership agreement, while also restricting the remedies available to our unitholders for actions that, without these limitations, might constitute breaches of fiduciary duty;
•Cheniere is not limited in its ability to compete with us. Please refer to the risk factor “Cheniere is not restricted from competing with us and is free to develop, operate and dispose of, and is currently developing, LNG facilities, pipelines and other assets without any obligation to offer us the opportunity to develop or acquire those assets”;
•our general partner determines the amount and timing of asset purchases and sales, capital expenditures, borrowings, issuances of additional partnership securities, and the establishment, increase or decrease in the amounts of reserves, each of which can affect the amount of cash that is distributed to our unitholders;
•our general partner determines the amount and timing of any capital expenditures and whether a capital expenditure is a maintenance capital expenditure, which reduces operating surplus, or an expansion capital expenditure, which does not reduce operating surplus. This determination can affect the amount of cash that is distributed to our unitholders;
•our partnership agreement does not restrict our general partner from causing us to pay it or its affiliates for any services rendered on terms that are fair and reasonable to us or entering into additional contractual arrangements with any of these entities on our behalf;
•our general partner intends to limit its liability regarding our contractual and other obligations and, in some circumstances, is entitled to be indemnified by us;
•our general partner may exercise its limited right to call and purchase common units if it and its affiliates own more than 80% of the common units; and
•our general partner decides whether to retain separate counsel, accountants or others to perform services for us.
We also have agreements to compensate and to reimburse expenses of affiliates of Cheniere. In addition, SPL has also executed agreements with Cheniere Marketing to sell: (1) at Cheniere Marketing’s option, any LNG produced by SPL in excess of that required for other customers at a price of 115% of Henry Hub plus $3.00 per MMBtu of LNG and (2) up to 306 cargoes to be delivered between 2022 and 2027 at a weighted average price of $1.95 plus 115% of Henry Hub. All of these agreements involve conflicts of interest between us, on the one hand, and Cheniere and its other affiliates, on the other hand. In addition, Cheniere is currently operating three Trains at a natural gas liquefaction facility near Corpus Christi, Texas and CCL has entered into fixed price SPAs with third-parties for the sale of LNG from this natural gas liquefaction facility, and may continue to enter into commercial arrangements with respect to this liquefaction facility that might otherwise have been entered into with respect to Train 6 or any future Trains.
We expect that there will be additional agreements or arrangements with Cheniere and its affiliates, including future interconnection, natural gas balancing and storage agreements with one or more Cheniere-affiliated natural gas pipelines, services agreements, as well as other agreements and arrangements that cannot now be anticipated. In those circumstances
where additional contracts with Cheniere and its affiliates may be necessary or desirable, additional conflicts of interest may be involved.
In the event Cheniere favors its interests over our interests, we may have less available cash to make distributions on our units than we otherwise would have if Cheniere had favored our interests.
Risks Relating to an Investment in Us and Our Common Units
Our partnership agreement limits our general partner’s fiduciary duties to our unitholders and restricts the remedies available to our unitholders for actions taken by our general partner that might otherwise constitute breaches of fiduciary duty.
Our partnership agreement contains provisions that reduce the standards to which our general partner would otherwise be held by state fiduciary duty law. For example, our partnership agreement:
•permits our general partner to make a number of decisions in its individual capacity, as opposed to in its capacity as our general partner. This entitles our general partner to consider only the interests and factors that it desires, and it has no duty or obligation to give any consideration to any interest of, or factors affecting, us, our affiliates or any limited partner. Examples include the exercise of its limited call right, the exercise of its rights to transfer or vote the units it owns, the exercise of its registration rights and its determination whether or not to consent to any merger or consolidation of the partnership or amendment to the partnership agreement;
•provides that our general partner will not have any liability to us or our unitholders for decisions made in its capacity as general partner, as long as it acted in good faith, meaning that it believed the decision was in the best interests of our partnership;
•generally provides that affiliated transactions and resolutions of conflicts of interest not approved by the conflicts committee of the board of directors of our general partner and not involving a vote of unitholders must be on terms no less favorable to us than those generally being provided to or available from unrelated third parties or be “fair and reasonable” to us and that, in determining whether a transaction or resolution is “fair and reasonable,” our general partner may consider the totality of the relationships between the parties involved, including other transactions that may be particularly favorable or advantageous to us;
•provides that our general partner, its affiliates and their officers and directors will not be liable for monetary damages to us or our limited partners for any acts or omissions unless there has been a final and non-appealable judgment entered by a court of competent jurisdiction determining that our general partner or those other persons acted in bad faith or engaged in fraud, willful misconduct or, in the case of a criminal matter, acted with knowledge that such conduct was criminal; and
•provides that in resolving conflicts of interest, it will be presumed that in making its decision the conflicts committee or the general partner acted in good faith, and in any proceeding brought by or on behalf of any limited partner or us, the person bringing or prosecuting such proceeding will have the burden of overcoming such presumption.
By purchasing a common unit, a unitholder will become bound by the provisions of our partnership agreement, including the provisions described above.
Holders of our common units have limited voting rights and are not entitled to elect our general partner or its directors, which could reduce the price at which our common units trade.
Unlike the holders of common stock in a corporation, our unitholders have only limited voting rights on matters affecting our business and, therefore, limited ability to influence management’s decisions regarding our business. Our unitholders have no right to elect our general partner or its board of directors on an annual or other continuing basis. The board of directors of our general partner is chosen entirely by affiliates of Cheniere. As a result, the price at which the common units trade could be diminished because of the absence or reduction of a control premium in the trading price.
The vote of the holders of at least 66 2/3% of all outstanding common units (including any units owned by our general partner and its affiliates), voting together as a single class is required to remove our general partner. Cheniere owns 48.6% of
our outstanding common units, but it is contractually prohibited from voting our units that it holds in favor of the removal of our general partner.
Additionally, our partnership agreement restricts unitholders’ voting rights by providing that any units held by a person that owns 20% or more of any class of units then outstanding, other than our general partner and its affiliates, their transferees and persons who acquired such units with the prior approval of the board of directors of our general partner, cannot vote on any matter. Our partnership agreement also contains provisions limiting the ability of unitholders to call meetings or to acquire information about our operations, as well as other provisions limiting the unitholders’ ability to influence the manner or direction of management.
Any change of our general partner or the replacement of the board of directors or officers of our partnership, which can occur without the consent of our unitholders, can impact our future operations and have an adverse impact on the trading price of our stock.
Our general partner may transfer its general partner interest to a third party in a merger or in a sale of all or substantially all of its assets without the consent of our unitholders. Furthermore, our partnership agreement does not restrict the ability of the owners of our general partner from transferring all or a portion of their respective ownership interest in our general partner to a third party. The new owners of our general partner would then be in a position to replace the board of directors and officers of our general partner with its own choices and thereby influence the decisions taken by the board of directors and officers. Any change in our general partner or the replacement of the board of directors or officers of our partnership can impact our future operations and have an adverse impact on the trading price of our stock.
Our partnership agreement prohibits a unitholder (other than our general partner and its affiliates) who acquires 15% or more of our limited partner units without the approval of our general partner from engaging in a business combination with us for three years unless certain approvals are obtained. This provision could discourage a change of control that our unitholders may favor, which could negatively affect the price of our common units.
Our partnership agreement effectively adopts Section 203 of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware (“DGCL”). Section 203 of the DGCL as it applies to us prevents an interested unitholder defined as a person (other than our general partner and its affiliates) who owns 15% or more of our outstanding limited partner units from engaging in business combinations with us for three years following the time such person becomes an interested unitholder unless certain approvals are obtained. Section 203 broadly defines “business combination” to encompass a wide variety of transactions with or caused by an interested unitholder, including mergers, asset sales and other transactions in which the interested unitholder receives a benefit on other than a pro rata basis with other unitholders. This provision of our partnership agreement could have an anti-takeover effect with respect to transactions not approved in advance by our general partner, including discouraging takeover attempts that might result in a premium over the market price for our common units.
Our unitholders may not have limited liability if a court finds that unitholder action constitutes control of our business.
A general partner of a partnership generally has unlimited liability for the obligations of the partnership, except for contractual obligations of the partnership that are expressly made without recourse to the general partner. We are organized under Delaware law, and we conduct business in other states. As a limited partner in a partnership organized under Delaware law, holders of our common units could be held liable for our obligations to the same extent as a general partner if a court determined that the right or the exercise of the right by our unitholders as a group to remove or replace our general partner, to approve some amendments to our partnership agreement or to take other action under our partnership agreement constituted participation in the “control” of our business. In addition, limitations on the liability of holders of limited partner interests for the obligations of a limited partnership have not been clearly established in many jurisdictions.
Our unitholders may have liability to repay distributions wrongfully made.
Under certain circumstances, our unitholders may have to repay amounts wrongfully distributed to them. Under Section 17-607 of the Delaware Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act, we may not make a distribution to our unitholders if the distribution would cause our liabilities to exceed the fair value of our assets. Delaware law provides that, for a period of three years from the date of the impermissible distribution, partners who received such a distribution and who knew at the time of the distribution that it violated Delaware law will be liable to the partnership for the distribution amount. Liabilities to partners on
account of their partner interests and liabilities that are non-recourse to the partnership are not counted for purposes of determining whether a distribution is permitted.
Affiliates of our general partner or affiliates of Blackstone Inc. (“Blackstone”) or Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (“Brookfield”) may sell limited partner units, which sales could have an adverse impact on the trading price of our common units.
Sales by us or any of our affiliated unitholders or affiliates of Blackstone of a substantial number of our common units, or the perception that such sales might occur, could have a material adverse effect on the price of our common units or could impair our ability to obtain capital through an offering of equity securities. As of December 31, 2021, Cheniere owned 239,872,502 of our common units. We also filed a registration statement for the resale of 202,450,687 common units owned by Blackstone and its affiliates in 2017. Any sales of these units could have an adverse impact on the price of our common units.
Risks Relating to Tax Matters
Our tax treatment depends on our status as a partnership for federal income tax purposes, and our not being subject to a material amount of entity-level taxation by individual states. If we were treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes or if we were to become subject to material additional amounts of entity-level taxation for state tax purposes, then our cash available for distribution to our unitholders would be substantially reduced.
The anticipated after-tax economic benefit of an investment in our common units depends largely on our being treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes. Despite the fact that we are a limited partnership under Delaware law, we will be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes unless we satisfy a “qualifying income” requirement. Based upon our current operations, we believe we satisfy the qualifying income requirement. Failing to meet the qualifying income requirement or a change in current law could cause us to be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes or otherwise subject us to taxation as an entity.
If we were treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes, we would pay federal income tax on our taxable income at the corporate tax rate and would likely pay state and local income taxes at varying rates. Distributions to our unitholders would generally be taxed again as corporate dividends, and no income, gains, losses or deductions would flow through to our unitholders. Because a tax would be imposed upon us as a corporation, the cash available for distributions to our unitholders would be substantially reduced. Therefore, treatment of us as a corporation would result in a material reduction in the anticipated cash flow and after-tax return to our unitholders, likely causing a substantial reduction in the value of our common units.
At the state level, several states have been evaluating ways to subject partnerships to entity-level taxation through the imposition of state income, franchise and other forms of taxation. Imposition of such taxes on us in jurisdictions in which we operate, or to which we may expand our operations, may substantially reduce the cash available for distribution to our unitholders and, therefore, negatively impact the value of an investment in our common units.
Our partnership agreement provides that if a law is enacted or existing law is modified or interpreted in a manner that subjects us to taxation as a corporation or otherwise subjects us to entity-level taxation for federal, state or local income tax purposes, then the initial quarterly distribution amount and the target distribution amounts may be adjusted to reflect the impact of that law on us.
The tax treatment of publicly traded partnerships or an investment in our common units could be subject to potential legislative, judicial or administrative changes and differing interpretations, possibly on a retroactive basis.
The present U.S. federal income tax treatment of publicly traded partnerships, including us, or an investment in our common units may be modified by administrative, legislative or judicial interpretation at any time. Members of Congress have frequently proposed and considered substantive changes to the existing U.S. federal income tax laws that would affect publicly traded partnerships or an investment in our common units, including proposals that would eliminate our ability to qualify for partnership tax treatment.
In addition, the Treasury Department has issued, and in the future may issue, regulations interpreting those laws that affect publicly traded partnerships. There can be no assurance that there will not be further changes to U.S. federal income tax
laws or the Treasury Department’s interpretation of the qualifying income rules in a manner that could impact our ability to qualify as a partnership in the future.
Any changes to the U.S. federal income tax laws and interpretations thereof may or may not be applied retroactively and could make it more difficult or impossible for us to meet the exception to be treated as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes or otherwise adversely affect us. We are unable to predict whether any changes, or other proposals, will ultimately be enacted. Any such changes or interpretations thereof could negatively impact the value of an investment in our common units. Unitholders are urged to consult with their own tax advisor with respect to the status of regulatory or administrative developments and proposals and their potential effect on investments in our common units.
We prorate our items of income, gain, loss and deduction between transferors and transferees of our common units each month based upon the ownership of our common units on the first day of each month, instead of on the basis of the date a particular common unit is transferred.
We prorate our items of income, gain, loss and deduction between transferors and transferees of our common units each month based upon the ownership of our common units on the first business day of each month, instead of on the basis of the date a particular unit is transferred. Although final Treasury Regulations allow publicly traded partnerships to use a similar monthly simplifying convention to allocate tax items among transferor and transferee unitholders, such tax items must be prorated on a daily basis and these regulations do not specifically authorize all aspects of the proration method we have adopted. If the IRS were to successfully challenge this method or new Treasury Regulations were issued, we may be required to change the allocation of items of income, gain, loss and deduction among our unitholders.
A successful Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) contest of the federal income tax positions that we take, may adversely impact the market for our common units, and the costs of any contest will be borne by our unitholders and our general partner.
The IRS may adopt positions that differ from the positions that we take, even positions taken with advice of counsel. It may be necessary to resort to administrative or court proceedings to sustain some or all of the positions that we take. A court may not agree with some or all of the positions that we take. Any contest with the IRS may adversely impact the taxable income reported to our unitholders and the income taxes they are required to pay. As a result, any such contest with the IRS may materially and adversely impact the market for our common units and the price at which our common units trade. In addition, the costs of any contest with the IRS, principally legal, accounting and related fees, will result in a reduction in cash available for distribution to our unitholders and our general partner and thus will be borne indirectly by our unitholders and our general partner.
If the IRS makes audit adjustments to our income tax returns for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, it (and some states) may assess and collect any taxes (including any applicable penalties and interest) resulting from such audit adjustment directly from us, in which case we may either pay the taxes directly to the IRS or elect to have our unitholders and former unitholders take such audit adjustment into account and pay any resulting taxes. If we bear such payment our cash available for distribution to our unitholders might be substantially reduced.
Pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, if the IRS makes audit adjustments to our income tax returns, it (and some states) may assess and collect any taxes (including any applicable penalties and interest) resulting from such audit adjustment directly from us. To the extent possible under the new rules, our general partner may either pay the taxes (including any applicable penalties and interest) directly to the IRS or, if we are eligible, elect to issue a revised Schedule K-1 to each unitholder with respect to an audited and adjusted return. Although our general partner may elect to have our unitholders and former unitholders take such audit adjustment into account and pay any resulting taxes (including applicable penalties or interest) in accordance with their interests in us during the tax year under audit, there can be no assurance that such election will be practical, permissible or effective in all circumstances. As a result, our current unitholders may bear some or all of the tax liability resulting from such audit adjustment, even if such unitholders did not own common units in us during the tax year under audit. If, as a result of any such audit adjustment, we are required to make payments of taxes, penalties and interest, our cash available for distribution to our unitholders might be substantially reduced.
Our unitholders may be required to pay taxes on their share of our taxable income even if they do not receive any cash distributions from us.
Because our unitholders will be treated as partners to whom we will allocate taxable income, which could be different in amount from the cash that we distribute, our unitholders will be required to pay federal income taxes and, in some cases, state and local income taxes on their share of our taxable income even if they do not receive any cash distributions from us. Our unitholders may not receive cash distributions from us equal to their share of our taxable income or even equal to the actual tax liability which results from their share of our taxable income.
Tax gain or loss on the disposition of our common units could be different than expected.
If our unitholders sell any of their common units, they will recognize gain or loss equal to the difference between the amount realized and their tax basis in those common units. Because distributions in excess of the unitholders’ allocable share of our net taxable income decrease the unitholders’ tax basis in their common units, the amount, if any, of such prior excess distributions with respect to the units sold will, in effect, become taxable income to the unitholder if they sell such units at a price greater than their tax basis in those units, even if the price received is less than their original cost. A substantial portion of the amount realized, whether or not representing gain, may be ordinary income due to the potential recapture items, including depreciation recapture. In addition, because the amount realized may include a unitholder’s share of our nonrecourse liabilities, a unitholder that sells common units may incur a tax liability in excess of the amount of cash received from the sale.
Tax-exempt entities face unique tax issues from owning common units that may result in adverse tax consequences to them.
Investments in common units by tax-exempt entities, such as individual retirement accounts (known as IRAs), raises issues unique to them. For example, virtually all of our income allocated to unitholders who are organizations exempt from federal income tax, including individual retirement accounts and other retirement plans, will be unrelated business taxable income and will be taxable to them. Tax-exempt entities should consult a tax advisor before investing in our common units.
Non-U.S. unitholders will be subject to U.S. taxes and withholding with respect to their income and gain from owning our common units.
Non-U.S. unitholders are generally taxed and subject to income tax filing requirements by the United States on income effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business (“effectively connected income”). A unitholder’s share of our income, gain, loss and deduction, and any gain from the sale or disposition of our common units will generally be considered to be “effectively connected” with a U.S. trade or business and subject to U.S. federal income tax. As a result, distributions to a non-U.S. unitholder will be subject to withholding at the highest applicable effective tax rate and a non-U.S. unitholder who sells or otherwise disposes of a common unit will also be subject to U.S. federal income tax on the gain realized from the sale or disposition of that common unit.
Moreover, upon the sale, exchange or other disposition of a common unit by a non-U.S. unitholder, withholding may be required on the amount realized unless the disposing unitholder certifies that it is not a foreign person. Treasury regulations provide that the “amount realized” on a transfer of an interest in a publicly traded partnership, such as our common units, will generally be the amount of gross proceeds paid to the broker effecting the applicable transfer on behalf of the unitholder. The Treasury regulations further provide that withholding on a transfer of an interest in a publicly traded partnership will not be imposed on a transfer that occurs prior to January 1, 2022, and after that date, if effected through a broker, the obligation to withhold is imposed on the transferor’s broker. In Notice 2021-51, the IRS announced that it intends to amend the Treasury regulations to defer the applicability date for withholding on a transfer of an interest in a publicly traded partnership to January 1, 2023. Non-U.S. unitholders should consult their tax advisors regarding the impact of these rules on an investment in our common units.
Our unitholders will likely be subject to state and local taxes and return filing requirements as a result of an investment in our common units.
In addition to federal income taxes, our unitholders will likely be subject to other taxes, including state and local income taxes, unincorporated business taxes and estate, inheritance or intangible taxes that are imposed by the various jurisdictions in which we do business or own property, even if the unitholder does not live in any of those jurisdictions. Our unitholders may be required to file state and local income tax returns and pay state and local income taxes in some or all of these various
jurisdictions. Furthermore, our unitholders may be subject to penalties for failure to comply with those requirements. As we make acquisitions or expand our business, we may own property or conduct business in additional states or foreign countries that impose a personal tax or an entity level tax. Unitholders may be subject to penalties for failure to comply with those requirements. It is the responsibility of our unitholders to file all United States federal, state and local tax returns.
We have adopted certain valuation methodologies in determining a unitholder’s allocations of income, gain, loss and deduction. The IRS may challenge these methodologies or the resulting allocations, and such a challenge could adversely affect the value of our common units.
In determining the items of income, gain, loss and deduction allocable to our unitholders, we must routinely determine the fair market value of our assets. Although we may from time to time consult with professional appraisers regarding valuation matters, we make many fair market value estimates ourselves using a methodology based on the market value of our common units as a means to determine the fair market value of our assets. The IRS may challenge these valuation methods and the resulting allocations of income, gain, loss and deduction.
A successful IRS challenge to these methods or allocations could adversely affect the timing or amount of taxable income or loss being allocated to our unitholders. It also could affect the amount of gain from our unitholders’ sale of common units and could have a negative impact on the value of the common units or result in audit adjustments to our unitholders’ tax returns without the benefit of additional deductions.