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Evidence is 'clear' on ability to reduce production costs: Venture

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Berlin — US LNG costs are falling quickly, making the fuel more cost-competitive in global markets, including in Europe, officials said Thursday.

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Clark Price, Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs at the US Embassy in Berlin, said Thursday that US LNG was becoming more economic, with costs set to continue to fall in the future.

"US LNG will become even more cost-competitive and attractive. We are confident US LNG can compete [in Europe] -- even on price," Price said at a conference in Berlin.

He said US LNG developers were driving new efficiencies in gas production and conversion to LNG. "Costs have dropped and are expected to fall further," he said.

Tom Earl, chief commercial officer at US LNG developer Venture Global, said the US -- with its low-cost shale gas and flexible capital markets - had innovated and reduced liquefaction costs.

"There is a special mix of things in the US -- the efficiency of capital markets and the willingness to try new things in technology have come together with natural resources to lead to a reduction in costs," Earl said.

"The evidence is clear, and will become increasingly clear in the next 6-12 months," he said.

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Earl said Venture Global was preparing to take the final investment decision on its Calcasieu Pass LNG export facility in a "short, few months."

Venture Global has signed several long-term agreements with buyers of LNG production capacity in recent months.

Calcasieu Pass would liquefy gas and export up to 10 million mt/year of LNG, using a modular design with a capacity of up to 12 million mt/year possible under peak conditions.

EUROPEAN RELATIONS

Price said US LNG would help transform the European gas market, bringing new diversification and security of supply.

"This is a new chapter in our energy relationship," Price said.

He said Washington supported Germany's attempt to enhance its supply diversity with a new LNG terminal, adding that too many countries in Europe relied on one supplier.

Price said the US wanted to help Europe diversify its energy sources. "We stand ready to help," he said.

"We want to enhance a more secure energy situation in Europe so that no one country or corporation can disproportionately influence Europe," he said.

"US LNG is open for business -- it is completely reliable. We do not use energy as means of coercion. US LNG can play a key part of Europe's and Germany's energy mix."

PIPELINE GAS VS US LNG

Paul Corcoran, CFO of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline operating company, said Russian pipeline gas was still more competitive than US LNG.

"Russian gas is still very well placed against US LNG," Corcoran said.

He said that despite Europe's LNG import capacity of more than 200 Bcm, 75% remains unutilized "because pipeline gas is cheaper than LNG."

Taking Germany's biggest gas consumer, BASF, as an example, Corcoran said it needed guaranteed supply security and good supply economics.

"It needs good, stable prices. It can't rely on the vagaries of LNG demand," he said.

--Stuart Elliott, stuart.elliott@spglobal.com

--Edited by Maurice Geller, newsdesk@spglobal.com