Charif Souki

Cheniere Energy; Tellurian

Editor's note: This profile is part of Hart Energy's 50th anniversary Hall of Fame series honoring industry pioneers of the past 50 years and the Agents of Change (ACEs) who are leading the energy sector into the future.

Charif Souki

Tellurian Inc.’s co-founder and executive chairman Charif Souki is arguably the godfather of U.S. LNG. His early efforts in the late 1990s and early 2000s helped the U.S. rise from an LNG importer to a top-tier exporter ranked alongside Australia and Qatar in liquefaction capacity and export volumes. 

The long-term effect of those efforts was realized in 2022, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in a massive drop in Russian energy exports to Europe. Those shipments were replaced, in large part, by U.S. LNG exports. 

Souki founded Cheniere in 1996 and began developing its LNG business in 1999. The former investment banker with a B.A. from Colgate University and an MBA from Columbia University was born in Egypt and spent his youth in Lebanon. He traveled the world as the son of a foreign news correspondent and, later, as a private investor.

In 1999, Cheniere was among the first to secure sites and start development of new LNG terminals in the U.S. The Houston-based company focused its initial developments on Sabine Pass LNG in western Cameron Parish, La., on the Sabine Pass Channel; Corpus Christi LNG near Corpus Christi, Texas; and Creole Trail LNG at the mouth of the Calcasieu Channel in central Cameron Parish, La. 

Cheniere’s initial liquefaction project encompassed adding liquefaction services at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal to transform it into a bi-directional plant that could both regasify foreign-sourced LNG and liquefy U.S. sourced gas for export.

Sabine Pass Tugs
Tugboats at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal in 2014. (Source: Hart Energy)

Souki wouldn’t see his dream come to fruition at Cheniere. In December 2015, a showdown with Carl Icahn, investor with the largest stake in Cheniere, resulted in Souki’s departure. Icahn wanted the company to return cash to shareholders and the visionary Souki had other plans.

Cheniere commenced LNG exports from the Sabine Pass in 2016 and was already moving forward development and construction of a second liquefaction and export facility at the Corpus Christi LNG terminal, which commenced operations in 2018. Today, Cheniere’s U.S. Gulf Coast presence consists of these plants with a combined nominal capacity of 45 mtpa. 

The Sabine Pass facility has six liquefaction trains with a capacity of 30 mtpa, while the Corpus Christi LNG facility in South Texas has three trains with capacity of 15 mtpa. Corpus Christi Stage 3 will add capacity of 10+ mtpa, and is a brownfield expansion project currently under construction and around 38.1% complete.

Souki co-founded Tellurian with Martin Houston in 2016 and serves as its executive chairman. The company has started construction on the 27.6 mtpa Driftwood LNG export facility near Lake Charles, La. The first phase of construction is expected to cost $14.5 billion and first LNG production is expected by late 2026 or early 2027.

 —Pietro D. Pitts, International Managing Editor

Click here to see the rest of Hart Energy's 2023 Hall of Fame.