Natural gas industry experiencing 'paradigm shift'

04 20, 2013 by Houston Chronicle

Liquefied natural gas has tremendous upside as a transportation fuel over the next several decades, speakers said Friday on the closing day of a mega-conference in Houston.

The 17th International Conference & Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas brought together industry and government officials from around the world to discuss the past, present and future for LNG - natural gas superchilled into liquid form for transport on tankers or use as transportation fuel.

Natural gas has become abundant in the United States, and the government faces increasing pressure from producers who want permits to export it.

Friday's discussion included presentations on liquefied natural gas for long-haul trucking and marine transportation, floating liquefaction facilities and other technological advances.

"It's not often you get to participate in a paradigm shift in an industry, and I think we are doing that now," Anders Ekvall, Shell's vice president, LNG Americas, told attendees.

By 2020, liquefied natural gas could meet one-fifth of the world's gas needs, he said, adding that it will take significant investments by the industry to make that a reality.

Shell is deploying its technology as part of the effort.

"We are not just talking about it, we are doing it," Ekvall said.

Offshore, Shell also is working on its Prelude floating liquefied natural gas facility, which will allow it to produce natural gas offshore, liquefy it and deliver it to market.

Shell launched the project in May 2011.

The floating facility off the coast of Australia will chill natural gas produced at the field, shrinking its volume so it can be shipped to customers in other parts of the world. Shell says ocean-going carriers will load the LNG as well as other liquid byproducts for delivery to market.

The first production from the facility is expected in 2017.

An exhibition associated with this week's conference included 17 models of floating liquefied natural gas facilities on the showroom floor, attendees were told, suggesting intense interest in the still-infant technology.

Ron Snedic, vice president-corporate development at the Gas Technology Institute, said there is optimism and excitement in the LNG industry about the possibilities ahead.

"This is the first time we have had an LNG conference focus so much on growth and transportation opportunities," he said.

The four-day conference at the George R. Brown Convention Center began Tuesday.