Expand liquefied gas exports
As the world looks for new energy supplies, one option is to increase the use of clean-burning liquefied natural gas. It is low in carbon and plentiful and doesn’t have the economic and environmental problems associated with coal.
The United States is the most logical supplier of liquefied gas. Our country is the world’s No. 1 producer of natural gas. The Potential Gas Committee, a coalition of utilities and production companies, estimates that America possesses potential supplies of more than 2,800 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that will exceed demand for a century or more.
Regardless of views on a new era of liquefied gas exports — whether seen from its effect on the U.S. economy, our commitment to free trade, the energy security of our allies in Europe and Asia, or the potential for a significant reduction in air pollution and carbon emissions from a coal-to-natural gas switch in electricity production — the results will be far-reaching and beneficial.
Some maintain that liquefied gas exports could harm U.S. consumers if exports reach a level in which domestic resources become tight and gas prices rise. Some chemical and fertilizer companies that rely on large amounts of low-cost gas for production say that U.S. gas supplies should be used for manufacturing in this country, not for sale overseas. But the availability of gas hasn’t been a problem for many years. Thanks to the shale revolution and new innovations in drilling, gas production continues to grow annually. It’s time to put the ghosts of our energy past to bed.
U.S. exports of liquefied gas began earlier this year at Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana. The first cargo was delivered to Brazil in February. In October, there were nine shipments from the Louisiana terminal to foreign countries. China and Japan are huge potential markets for liquefied gas, as are countries in central and eastern Europe. Those regions are eager to get access to U.S. gas as a way to break Russia’s grip on their economies.
Four other U.S. liquefied gas terminal are under construction and 30 more applications to export it are pending before the Department of Energy. Several have been under review for years and with no breakthrough in sight, the bureaucratic logjam keeps getting worse.
Action is long overdue on legislation streamlining and speeding up the licensing process.
That should be high on the energy agenda of the Trump administration and Congress. Without changes in the licensing process that eliminate overlapping reviews by the Department of Energy and as many as 20 different state and federal agencies, the bottleneck will continue and the United States will be at a disadvantage in competing with other liquefied gas exporters, namely Australia and Indonesia. Both countries are building export capabilities in hopes of snagging a large part of the Asian market.
Make no mistake, U.S. shale-gas producers in the Marcellus region have a lot at stake in this. If the gas that’s being produced in this country is not sold, drilling will decline and thousands of working people will lose their jobs.
Exporting liquefied gas is in our national interest. A great deal depends on improving the permitting process.
INTERVAL John Interval is a petroleum geologist in Bridgeville, Allegheny County.