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Highlights

Venezuela, Iran, Russia in focus as market considers options

Congress has role to play in pushing energy innovation

Houston — US energy exporters have the opportunity to seize more market share amid economic strife and geopolitical tensions in hot spots in Latin America and the Middle East, and amid efforts in Europe to break its reliance on Russian gas, industry and government leaders said Tuesday.

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Instability from hyperinflation and infrastructure deterioration in Venezuela, restrictions on oil shipments from Iran and the prospect of additional sanctions on Russia are prompting investors, producers, shippers and consumers to take a hard look at US resource abundance to fill the gaps.

The US has its own trade barriers, due in large part to tensions with China. Overall, the US' relative stability, from production to delivery, provides options for global policy makers and market participants, officials from the US and Europe said during a panel discussion at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference in Houston.

"The US gas volumes can help, certainly, and we anticipate that," said Francis Fannon, assistant secretary for the US State Department's Bureau of Energy Resources.

The Trump administration is participating in a ministerial dialogue that kicked off in Oman in January that is focused on energy economics, in an effort to address the core interests of importing and exporting countries, Fannon said. Fuel alternatives were a key topic.

"The Middle East is known for oil, but this is not just about oil." Fannon said. "That's an outdated approach. All of these countries have one domestic initiative, seeking to diversify their supplies."

The US is already a major supplier of LNG to the world, and it is poised to becoming a bigger player as new liquefaction capacity comes online this year and next year, and when another batch becomes available in the early to mid-2020s. It is also boosting pipeline gas flows to Mexico, which is heavily reliant on US supplies of the power plant and home heating fuel.

Some members of Congress, including Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, are pushing for comprehensive legislation that would promote US energy innovation. She also has advocated for changes in the permitting process to allow energy projects to proceed more quickly, a subject she addressed during a discussion at the conference on Monday.

Europe is looking to take greater advantage of those trends, by importing more gas from the US, in part to reduce Russia's grip on flows to the continent. The possibility of further US sanctions on Russia gives market participants another reason to consider US supplies.

"For most of the last decade, to the extent the US was flexing its muscle using its energy position to make sanctions for political purposes, it was looking at oil. Now, it is looking at gas," said Elizabeth Rosenberg, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank.

-- Harry Weber, Harry.Weber@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jennifer Pedrick, newsdesk@spglobal.com