PARIS, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- French energy company ENGIE, formerly GDF Suez, said it signed a deal to secure liquefied natural gas from proposed export facilities in the United States.
"ENGIE is committed to guarantee the supply of its European customers with clean and reliable energy," Pierre Chareyre, the company's executive vice president in charge of LNG, said in a statement. "Importing U.S. LNG will participate to strengthen the security of supply of Europe."
ENGIE said it signed a five-year sales and purchase agreement with Cheniere Marketing International to secure LNG from the planned Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi export terminals in the United States.
A special permit is needed to send natural gas to companies without a U.S. free trade agreement. Though France has no such agreement, Cheniere secured the necessary permits, weighed against the public's interest, from Washington in 2011.
Supporters of LNG exports say it would provide a source of economic stimulus and increase U.S. leverage overseas. A federal U.S. study found the "effects on overall economic growth [from the emerging LNG market] were positive but modest."
For U.S. allies in Europe, the abundance of natural gas from domestic shale basins could be used as a tool to break the Russian grip on the European economy. The European market gets about 20 percent of its gas needs met by Russia, though most of that supply runs through a Soviet-era transit network in Ukraine, where lingering political and national security issues present risks to European energy security.
Miguel Arias Canete, the European commissioner for energy, said earlier this year LNG may present a source of diversity with the right infrastructure in place.
ENGIE said deliveries of U.S. LNG would start in 2018 and last over a five-year period. French rival EDF brokered a similar deal with Cheniere in August.