Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted March 21, 2016
Interesting weekend remarks from the Energy Department’s deputy secretary on U.S. oil and natural gas exports to Europe – especially so because DOE is the key federal agency in allowing domestic liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects to proceed.
Energy Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall was speaking at a forum hosted by the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, Belgium, when she discussed the dramatic change in energy markets caused by the U.S. shale revolution. Sherwood-Randall:
“What’s really changed in the global energy landscape is American abundance of supply of both oil and gas. … We are now poised to become significant exporters of both oil and natural gas. We began the export of natural gas just last month, and we are also beginning to export oil.”
Posted February 24, 2016
Two separate but related news items last week demonstrate the economic promise and geopolitical significance of America’s natural gas export opportunity.
The first headline, “U.S. LNG Set to Hit Global Market,” signifies a landmark moment in America’s trajectory from energy scarcity to abundance. The export facility covered in the article – Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass in Cameron Parish, La. – actually opened as a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal in 2008. Just two years later in September 2010, it became the first U.S. facility to apply for a Department of Energy permit to export LNG. After a decade that saw U.S. natural gas production jump 45 percent – and following an extensive review process – Sabine Pass is set to ship its first cargo to Europe.
Posted February 10, 2016
Yesterday, we took a look at the effects of the U.S. energy revolution on domestic oil production and the impact of that production on U.S. oil imports – and the resulting progress for America in terms of increased economic and consumer benefits and energy security. We argued that Obama administration policies risk retreating from progress that’s the result of the historic, game-changing shift in the U.S. energy outlook, thanks to America’s energy revolution.
Today, a look at natural gas, where the impacts of the energy revolution are no less significant.
Posted February 1, 2016
Iran’s plan to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) within two years is what you call a market signal, one that should cause U.S. policymakers to reconsider the ponderous pace with which proposed U.S. LNG export projects are gaining federal approval. The Wall Street Journal reported:
Iran is pushing to find new ways to extract and export its vast natural-gas reserves, including developing facilities to liquefy the commodity and ship it to Europe in two years now that western sanctions are no longer in place, according to a top Iranian official. Iran holds the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, but has long lacked the export infrastructure of competitors like Russia and Qatar. … Tehran is exploring several options to help the country “join the international LNG club,” said Alireza Kameli, Managing Director of National Iranian Gas Export Co., in an interview here.
Options for Iran include restarting its own advanced LNG export project that was halted in 2012 because of the western sanctions; building a pipeline under the Persian Gulf to Oman, which has LNG export facilities Iran might be able to use; and the construction of floating LNG facilities. Iranian officials say the country could export about 30 billion cubic meters (more than 1 trillion cubic feet) to the European Union long-term, the Journal reported.
While experts may disagree over how soon Iranian LNG exports could reach global markets, it makes sense for the United States – the world’s leading natural gas and oil producer – to capitalize on its natural gas abundance by speeding up federal approvals for domestic LNG exports to non-Free Trade Agreement countries. While a number of LNG export projects have received the go-ahead from Washington in the past couple of years, final non-FTA authorizations for more than 20 facilities remain under review at the Energy Department.
Posted January 11, 2016
A couple of data points from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) that help illustrate the impact of the natural gas portion of the American energy revolution.
First, EIA reports that wholesale electricity prices at major trading hubs, on a monthly average for on-peak hours, were down 27 percent to 37 percent across the U.S. in 2015 compared to 2014. The reason for the decrease, EIA says, is lower natural gas prices.
Now, let’s zero in on the increasing affordability of natural gas in electricity generation. Recently, EIA reported that 2015 natural gas spot prices at the national benchmark Henry Hub averaged $2.61 per million Btu (MMBtu), the lowest annual average since 1999. Interestingly, declining prices did not result in lower production, EIA says.
Posted January 4, 2016
As we write, the United States is once again an exporter of crude oil. Sure, in the past the federal government has allowed limited crude exports. The oil tanker that left the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, late last week is the bearer of the first freely traded U.S. crude in about four decades – made possible by congressional legislation that President Obama signed to end a 1970s-era ban on exports. It’s a new day indeed.
But wait, there’s more. Cheniere Energy says it has begun liquefying natural gas at its new export terminal in Louisiana, setting the stage for its first LNG export cargo this month.
Both are big-time energy developments for the United States – opportunities created by a domestic energy revolution largely driven by safely harnessing vast shale reserves with advanced hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.
Posted November 18, 2015
Interesting analysis on energy independence in the Wall Street Journal by Columbia University’s Jason Bordoff, a former energy adviser to President Obama. It’s a good thing the United States isn’t energy independent, Bordoff writes. That’ll get your attention, right?
As Bordoff explains, “energy independence” is a dusty concept from the 1970s and 80s, after policymakers made it a goal to end U.S. reliance on global crude suppliers after the 1973 oil embargo. It didn’t happen. To the contrary, U.S. imports steadily climbed in the 1990s and 2000s before the significant increases in domestic production, thanks to abundant American shale energy reserves and advanced hydraulic fracturing.
Now, with U.S. energy output surging, the inclination among some is to keep that energy here at home by maintaining the 1970s-era ban on crude oil exports, believing that it lessens others’ ability to disrupt our oil supplies. But Bordoff writes that an “isolationist” approach on energy misunderstands the reality that today’s global energy market is highly integrated and that the interconnectedness of the market has helped the U.S. compensate for supply disruptions here at home and overseas. “Free trade in a highly integrated global energy market made us more secure,” he writes.
Posted October 15, 2015
Reuters reports that Lithuania is in talks with U.S. liquefied natural gas company Cheniere Energy, seeking to reduce its dependence on Russia for LNG supplies. Lithuania opened an LNG import terminal last year, and its gas supply contract with Russian state-owned supplier Gazprom is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Rokas Masiulis, Lithuania’s energy minister:
“We would love to have U.S. cargo in our region to have competition with Gazprom. … I believe negotiations with Gazprom now will be on competitive, reasonable terms and that will be just business and nothing else. … After we have built an LNG terminal, there is no possibility of blackmail. Since we think there is no possibility of blackmail, discussion will be rational and economical rather than political. This is a big step.”
The minister speaks diplomatically, so let’s read between the lines a bit. We suspect that Lithuania is trying to secure the diversification of its energy supply. The country wants options, additional sources of LNG so that it is beyond leveraging by Russia on natural gas. Russia did this with oil in 2006, Reuters reports.
At the same time, Masiulis told Reuters that Lithuania also would be open to buying U.S. crude oil if the United States repeals its current ban on the export of domestic crude.
Posted September 4, 2015
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that the average retail price for regular gasoline on Aug. 31 was $2.51 per gallon – the lowest price for the Monday before Labor Day since 2004 and 95 cents lower than the Monday before Labor Day last year. EIA explains:
Declines in crude oil prices are the main driver behind falling U.S. gasoline prices. Lower crude oil prices reflect concerns about economic growth in emerging markets, expectations of higher oil exports from Iran, and continuing actual and expected growth in global crude oil inventories.
Certainly, the global markets for a variety of commodities may be influenced by concerns, feelings and inklings of one kind or another. Let’s focus on the tangible reason EIA cites for lower global crude prices – hence, lower prices at U.S. pumps: growth in global crude oil inventories. That refers to production and supply to the market. The story behind that story is that over the past six or seven years, the United States has led the world’s top suppliers of petroleum and other liquids in production and rate of production growth.
Posted September 4, 2015
As we can see with Pennsylvania, the energy impacts of the states individually combine to form energy’s national economic and jobs picture: 9.8 million jobs supported and $1.2 trillion in value added.