Kimmeridge takes control of Commonwealth LNG with former bp executive at the helm

(Bloomberg) – Energy-focused private equity firm Kimmeridge is taking a majority ownership stake in the proposed Commonwealth LNG project and naming a former bp Plc executive to lead the venture, marking a major bet on the future of natural gas.

Kimmeridge is buying out Commonwealth LNG founder Paul Varello’s share in the company as he retires and boosting the firm’s stake to 90%, Kimmeridge founder Ben Dell said in an interview.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The company also is appointing David Lawler — who resigned from bp in the wake of Bernard Looney’s departure in 2023 — as chief executive officer of the Kimmeridge Texas Gas unit, which would run Commonwealth LNG.

The investment is a vote of confidence from Dell’s shale-backed fund on the future of natural gas globally at a time when the U.S. has become the biggest LNG exporter and Europe and Asia are looking to shift away from dirtier fuels such as coal.

Commonwealth — which would ship the chilled gas from Cameron, Louisiana — is poised to be fully funded in 2025 and begin operations in late 2028.

Commonwealth LNG is among the projects hit hardest by President Joe Biden’s LNG permitting freeze, as the operation doesn’t yet have its full export license from Energy Department and pushed back its final investment decision until 2025.

Kimmeridge is looking to integrate its Eagle Ford upstream assets with the LNG project and potentially build its gas footprint further, Dell said. The firm would be open to selling LNG directly to customers globally on various price indices, including long term European gas or Asian LNG prices, or on an oil-indexed basis, he said.

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