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US LNG exports need gas infrastructure at home, abroad

New natural gas infrastructure is needed in U.S. and overseas markets to maximize the potential for American LNG exports, said policymakers and industry leaders at an event in Washington, D.C.

While the U.S. is set to add more than 6 Bcf/d of LNG export capacity by the end of 2019, additional projects could make it to market with efforts to create demand overseas through pipelines, power plants and other infrastructure. Congressional representatives, foreign diplomats and U.S. LNG export hopefuls described these efforts March 22 at an event hosted by trade group LNG Allies.

In the U.S., new pipelines are required to get gas from key producing regions to the U.S. Gulf Coast, where more than a dozen LNG export projects have been proposed, they said.

"We need $100 to $150 billion of investment in the United States in order to take advantage of the resources we have," said Amos Hochstein, senior vice president of marketing at U.S. LNG developer Tellurian Inc., which is also developing three natural gas pipelines. "With all the growth in the Permian, we don't actually have pipelines to take that gas to the Gulf Coast."

To help facilitate more investment in pipeline and LNG export projects, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, echoed calls for a shortened federal permitting process. Johnson, who has introduced two bills to speed up the permitting process for LNG exports, said that without "regulatory certainty," the U.S. could lose out on global market share.

In front of potential LNG buyers and industry members, Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., vowed to "knock down every bureaucratic wall" that hampers efforts to grow U.S. export capacity.

"LNG exports must grow; they must maintain," Higgins said. "The sun should not set on the expansion of LNG."

LNG export advocates said they are looking beyond U.S. borders at ways to make destination markets more interconnected to better use gas imports.

"When we talk about expanding global gas infrastructure, we must remember that gas infrastructure doesn't end with just the export and import terminals," said Katharine Ehly, policy adviser at the American Petroleum Institute. "Countries need to consider the infrastructure necessary to utilize the gas so that customers may benefit from that imported gas."

Ehly highlighted a recent push from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency to spur investment in gas infrastructure in emerging or potential LNG import countries that could open markets for American gas. USTDA Deputy Director Enoh Ebong provided an update.

"U.S. LNG needs markets, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency is in the business of creating those markets," Ebong said. "Lately, we've been hearing a great deal about the rising demand for LNG and the infrastructure needed."

The USTDA initiative, launched in November 2017, includes a series of trade missions and feasibility studies for pipelines, gas-fired power plants and other infrastructure. The agency asked for proposals from project sponsors in emerging markets or from U.S. companies partnering on such projects. The USTDA assesses those bids to determine which are eligible for grants.

Europe is another market where opportunity exists for U.S. LNG, despite bearish demand forecasts in the region, Hochstein said. Policymakers in Washington and across the Atlantic have hyped U.S. LNG exports as a way to wean Europe off Russian pipeline gas. But without expansive infrastructure, Hochstein said, the U.S. and its allies will not realize that goal.

"If there is no demand, if there is no market that's created ... then we're not going to be able to progress," he said.

"We have to do our job in the United States and build the infrastructure that allows us to take advantage of [natural resources] so we don't have the shutting in of oil production because of gas," he said. "And on the European side, we have to see progress on the interconnection" of the gas market.