Shale gas can supply NA as well as LNG export demand - economist

16 May 2013 23:08  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The shale gas revolution has uncovered enough natural gas to supply North America as well as export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to help meet world demand, a senior economist for a US oil producer said on Thursday.

By itself, the US will be a net exporter of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) by 2020, said Helen Currie during a presentation at the 2nd Annual National Association for Business Economics (NABE) Industry Conference.

Currie pointed to the steep upward trend in natural gas production in North America since the shale boom began just a few years ago. As of 2012, 33% of North American natural gas production has come from dry shale gas, she said.

The US alone produced 27 billion cubic feet (bcf)/day of natural gas in 2012 – a figure that would probably be higher had natural gas prices not collapsed in 2008 as the economic recession began and the shale boom got under way, the ConocoPhillips economist said.

Natural gas prices in the US peaked in 2008 above $12/MMBtu before plummeting to less than $2/MMBtu in 2012.

Natural gas currently trades around the $4/MMBtu level, which is still below the level that most shale resources can be brought to market for at least a break-even cost of production, Currie said.

That break-even level is the reason that many production rigs switched from shale gas to shale oil in the middle of the sharp decline in natural gas prices, she said.

The shale boom can build upon its success with more realistic tax policies, efficient regulations, increased access to resources and a reduction in permitting delays, Currie said.

A free-market approach would be best, she said, with the government “not picking winners and losers beforehand”.

US LNG exports have been a point of contention among some producers and petrochemical manufacturers, as the shale boom has given those manufacturers a feedstock cost advantage over many global competitors. Companies such as ExxonMobil have come out in favour of exports, while Dow Chemical has been vocal in its opposition.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is currently reviewing 25 applications to export LNG from 19 different projects. LNG exporters must seek approval from the DOE in order to export and receive separate approvals for free trade agreement (FTA) and non-FTA countries, which are the major LNG importing countries such as China, Japan and India

The DOE has halted any decisions on non-FTA export applications since 2010, citing the need to examine the potential impact of increased LNG exports.

Additional reporting by Ruth Liao

By: Jeremy Pafford
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