Ex­pand liq­ue­fied gas ex­ports

The Times-Tribune - - World - BY JOHN IN­TER­VAL GUEST COLUM­NIST

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.

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