U.S. to Cap LNG Exports to Boost Economy

01 25, 2013 by Bloomberg

The U.S. won’t rival Qatar and Australia as the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter as it keeps fuel at home to drive an industrial renaissance, Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser said.

The U.S. may export 50 metric million tons a year of LNG by the end of the decade, or about 10 percent of the projected world market, Voser said today in a Bloomberg TV interview in Davos, Switzerland. That’s below the 120 million tons a year he said is predicted by some forecasters and less than Qatar’s current annual production of 77 million tons. Australia is projected to pass Qatar by the end of the decade.

“Exports will happen,” said Voser, 54, whose company is the world’s largest LNG supplier. “But I hope that the U.S. will actually keep most of the gas back because it will help them to industrialize parts of the U.S. more.”

Drilling gas from shale rock formations has seen prices plunge, offering the world’s largest economy cheaper energy than competitors in Europe and Asia. U.S. export terminals would allow energy companies to profit from price differences between North America, Asia and Europe.

The U.S. Energy Department last month released a study, which promoted LNG exports. The report said even unfettered exports would likely be a net positive for the U.S., providing as much as $30 billion in trade revenue.
Optimistic Pledge

Companies led by Cheniere Energy Inc. (LNG) are seeking permission to ship LNG to customers not covered by U.S. free trade agreements, which for example don’t include Japan, the world’s largest consumer of LNG. Shell, which has held exclusive talks to take a stake in the Freeport LNG project, in November said pledges to invest as much as $450 billion in U.S. LNG export projects are “a little bit optimistic.”

An LNG export terminal will probably be one of several ways Shell uses North American gas, alongside projects to turn gas into liquid fuel such as diesel to power trucks and ships and feed chemicals plants, Voser said.

“We are looking at various options at the moment and there is a high possibility that we build our own” terminal, Voser said. “The next 12 months on this are quite crucial.”

Elsewhere in the world, Shell is optimistic about prospects for shale gas production in China and Ukraine. The company signed a production agreement with the eastern European country yesterday.

“In China, it is very encouraging what we find,” Voser said. Shell is exploring for shale gas with China National Petroleum Corp. “If you just look at the reserves it could outnumber the U.S.”