Dec 4 (Reuters) - Cheniere Energy Inc asked U.S. energy and safety regulators to approve a process that would allow the company to return to service a storage tank that leaked at its Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant in Louisiana:
* Cheniere, the biggest U.S. LNG exporter, said in a filing earlier this week that its proposed process would prioritize work on one tank, known as S-101, and allow that tank to return to service in the near term.
* The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) ordered Cheniere to shut two tanks at Sabine on Feb. 8, 2018, after plant workers on Jan. 22, 2018, discovered a 1- to 6-foot-long crack at one tank that leaked fuel into an outer layer.
* During the investigation of the Sabine site, PHMSA discovered a second tank had also experienced releases of LNG from an inner tank.
* In July, PHMSA and the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) told Cheniere that the company had to take several steps before the agencies would authorize the return to service of the two storage tanks: S-101 and S-103.
* Cheniere said it will continue work to complete the agencies' remaining requirements applicable to other tanks in a timely manner.
* Some of the tasks the agencies said Cheniere would have to complete before allowing the tanks to return include a structural re-inspection of all LNG storage tanks at Sabine and installation of additional devices to detect leaks.
* There are five tanks at Sabine, each with the capacity to hold the equivalent of 3.4 billion cubic feet of gas (bcf), or 17 bcf in total. One billion cubic feet of gas is enough to fuel about 5 million U.S. homes for a day.
* Sabine Pass was the first big LNG export terminal to enter service in the Lower 48 U.S. states in February 2016. There are now six LNG export terminals operating in the United States with a total capacity of 6.9 billion cubic feet per day.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Jonathan Oatis)