ANGA urges US to scrap dual approvals for LNG export projects

The US could lose an important global opportunity if it doesn’t move more quickly on its LNG export decisions, America’s Natural Gas Alliance said in a new study. “This is not about trying to get 20 export facilities quickly built,” ANGA Pres. Martin J. Durbin told reporters as the study was released. “It’s about making the process more certain and predictable so more of them can move ahead.”

Durbin said that basically, the association that represents several major US gas producers would like the Department of Energy to make a blanket determination that LNG exports to countries without free trade agreements with the US—as well as to those that do—are in the national interest.

That would provide more certainty for applicants and their potential investors because projects could concentrate on satisfying the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s rigorous requirements and securing the necessary state and local approvals, Durbin said in an Apr. 16 teleconference.

“We have a very extensive FERC approval process where a company can spend 18 months to 2 years and upwards of $100 million to satisfy a wide range of concerns,” he said. “If you’re willing to go through that, it shows you’re serious about your project. While it’s extensive and expensive, it’s also predictable.

He said, “Obtaining DOE’s approval has been more unpredictable, especially when it comes to countries with which the US does not have a free trade agreement. DOE took a positive step last year when it removed conditional approvals from its process. We’re saying we can take more uncertainty out of the process by stating that LNG exports are in the national interest, and letting FERC handle the approval decisions.”

Tried to address concerns

He said that in the report, “Carpe Diem: LNG Exports Are America's Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity,” ANGA tried to address LNG export opponents’ arguments that allow more US gas to be liquefied and sold abroad would excessively increase US prices and obliterate manufacturers’ gas price advantage over foreign competitors. “We completely understand their concerns: LNG needs to be exported without giving away our supply advantage,” he said. “We believe we can do that, and that it’s time to seize the day.”

Reports in the past week-and-a-half from the Potential Gas Committee (OGJ Online, Apr. 8, 2015) and US Energy Information Administration (OGJ Online, Apr. 8, 2015) show that US gas production will continue to increase enough to make any price increases minimal if more exports are allowed, ANGA’s president said. “EIA’s report assumed we are going to have LNG exports, but the opportunity is not going to be around indefinitely,” he warned.

Durbin said that no particular foreign LNG exporter is moving ahead yet, but Australia and Qatar both have potential. “There are more than 50 facilities outside the US that are either under construction or being planned,” he said.

US exporters likely would have to compete with Australian projects, suggested ANGA Chief Economist Erica Bowman, who also participated in the teleconference. “But one advantage the US has over Australia is that we have more reserves which we can produce less expensively,” she said. “We would have higher transportation costs because we’re further away, but we can compete.”

Durbin said, “We think there’s an opportunity here, but we need to move quickly on these decisions. Congress is back in town after its recess. It’s considering other issues and probably would not regard this as a high priority. But we support two bills which were introduced last session which wouldn’t change DOE’s authority, but would put it on the clock to make its decisions.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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