Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Will Exporting Natural Gas Raise U.S. Prices? New Report Says Not Really

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A Cabot Oil and Gas natural gas drill is viewed at a hydraulic fracturing site on January 17, 2012 in Springville, Pennsylvania. A domestic drilling boom has left the U.S. flush with natural gas, which some want to start selling abroad.

A new report by energy market analysts at Deloitte’s Center for Energy Solutions downplays the risk that exporting natural gas will cause prices to go up for consumers in the United States.

“This shows why the government doesn’t need to put a lid on projects. This says you don’t need to artificially constrain this,” said Deloitte’s Peter Robertson at a media briefing in Houston.

With fracking producing unexpected quantities of natural gas in Texas and other energy states, there are proposals to build export terminals where the natural gas would be converted to liquid (liquified natural gas or LNG) and loaded on to tankers. One facility that has won government permission to export LNG is in Cameron Parish, Louisiana and is owned by Cheniere Energy. Another making its way through the permit process is Excelerate Energy’s project in Port Lavaca, Texas according to a news release from the company.

Natural gas sells in the U.S. for about $3.30 per thousand cubic feet. Even though the liquifying process and shipping would add roughly $6 to that cost, it could still make U.S. LNG competitive in Europe and Asia (natural gas in Japan sells for about $15).

According to Deloitte’s report, “Prices are projected to decrease fairly significantly in regions importing U.S. LNG, but only marginally increase in the U.S.”

Last month a report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy also found that exporting LNG would raise domestic natural gas prices but that the net effect would be good for the overall economy.

Opposition to LNG exporting projects comes from environmental groups and from some industrial users like petrochemical companies that are benefiting from cheap natural gas which is used to a variety of processes including the making of plastics.


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