Clouds developing over U.S. LNG export potential

An industrial trade group frets over domestic supplies, while a consultant group said completion could be an impediment.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Aug. 17, 2017 at 9:13 AM
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Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A U.S. industrial trade group said Washington's domestic focus should prioritize the retention of natural gas, rather than target it for the export market.

As a candidate, Donald Trump ran under the slogan of "Make America Great Again." As president, he's steered efforts to put U.S. national interests first. Paul Cicio, the president of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, said in a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry that stance should extend to liquefied natural gas.

"It is time for the U.S. Department of Energy to put American residential and industrial consumers first by establishing a moratorium on further LNG export approvals to non-free trade agreement [NFTA] countries, and put consumer safeguards in place," he said in a statement.

The United States in 2009 passed Russia to become the largest natural gas producer in the world and more exports are likely once more LNG processing facilities start operating. There's only one facility in the United States with the necessary permits to export gas in the super-cooled liquid form. The company that runs it, Cheneire Energy, made a European debut in June when it shipped LNG to Polish Oil & Gas, known by its acronym PGNiG.

A special permit is needed to ship LNG to countries without a U.S. free-trade agreement. Though shying away from a Pacific trade deal, the Trump administration made a decision in May to let China negotiate for U.S.-sourced LNG.

A report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration found the United States could be the third-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world by the end of the decade. The industrial trade group said annual EIA assessments of natural gas supply and demand suggested the market could be tightened by a robust LNG export policy.

"These scenarios give justification to the halt of further LNG export approvals of shipments to countries [without a free-trade agreement]," the group said.

Like crude oil, the market price for natural gas remains low. A separate report from consulting firm Deloitte found the natural gas market will have to stay lower-for-longer in order to keep U.S. gas competitive on the international market.

"Export growth could be limited as global natural gas markets are in a state of flux with a glut of capacity that could potentially last until the early 2020s," its report read.

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