LNG exports can benefit US but need limits and future guidelines

23 May 2013 00:18  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) can be beneficial to the US, but some say the federal government should have some limitations on the practice and provide guidelines for the future, industry experts said on Wednesday during a panel discussion.

“A lot of my points today is about trust, whether that’s to regards of the impact of natural gas on communities, on employment or on energy security,” said Paula Grant, senior vice president of policy and planning at the American Gas Association (AGA).

“Our view is this is a tremendous opportunity for our country, and our point today is from an economic aspect – can you trust it?” she said during the KPMG Global Energy Conference hosted by the US consultancy firm.

Grant said there is plenty of natural gas supplies, and the pipeline system is a “tremendously reliable” infrastructure.

Also, with the concern that LNG exports will cause natural gas prices to increase, Grant said that natural gas prices drive LNG exports, not the other way around.

Dow Chemical, a US-based chemicals producer that spoke out against the US Department of Energy (DOE) report on the impacts of natural gas imports, said it is not against LNG exports but that the US needs some limitations.

“As we look at this from an industrial perspective, we’re saying the US has an opportunity here to use this energy… and invest that into the US and create huge economic growth,” said George Biltz, vice president of energy and climate change at Dow.

Doing so would create a “ripple effect”, multiplying GDP and increasing jobs not only directly but also for others that are dependent on the industry, he added.

Biltz explained that companies are making plant and facility investments in the US, and a challenge is the industry is the uncertainty that the price of natural gas will not be volatile in the future.

Grant argued that natural gas prices were more volatile in the past, before the shale revolution and modern technologies that allow drillers to retrieve the natural gas resources.

Biltz said the US needs to develop a long-term energy policy for the next 10, 20 and 30 years, as many other countries have done, to provide the industry with some sort of outlook so that companies will be more confident in making their investments.

LNG exports has been a hot topic of debate in the chemicals industry, a business that relies on natural gas for about 85% of its feedstock requirements.

In 2012, the DOE issued a report on the effects of increased natural gas exports on domestic energy markets and a report on the macroeconomic impacts of LNG exports.

Since then, several chemical producers have spoken out against the report, particularly using the argument that LNG exports would raise natural gas prices.

However, ExxonMobil said restricting LNG exports could hurt the US economy.

Last week, the DOE approved a second LNG export permit, allowing Freeport LNG to export natural gas from a Texas terminal to non-Free Trade Agreement countries.

The KPMG Global Energy Conference concludes on Thursday.

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By: Tracy Dang
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