Monday, April 9, 2012

Here's the Plan: The U.S. Will Export All Its Coal To China and Akk Its Natural Gas To Europe and Japan (KOL; BTU; LNG)

First up, Barron's:
Will the U.S. Become The World's Largest LNG Supplier? 
The short answer: If it wants to be. And it should—to create jobs, double exports, build global trading links and generally boost our economy. 
By 2017 the U.S. could be the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world, surpassing leading LNG exporters Qatar and Australia. There is one big "if," however. America can produce more gas, export a surplus, improve the trade deficit, create jobs, generate taxable profits and reduce its dependence on foreign energy if the marketplace is allowed to work and politics doesn't get in the way.

In May 2011 Cheniere Energy received an Energy Department license to export LNG from its Sabine Pass LNG import terminal in Louisiana. Cheniere subsequently reached long-term deals with the U.K.'s BG Group, Spain's Gas Natural and India's GAIL. Cheniere is targeting operation in 2016 and plans to export up to 730 billion cubic feet of LNG annually, roughly 3% of current U.S. gas production.

Sabine Pass originally was built as an import facility to alleviate projected U.S. gas shortages. Shale-gas technology changed that assumption radically. Now Sabine Pass is attractive because it already possesses much of the infrastructure for an export plant: LNG storage tanks, gas-handling facilities and docking terminals. Only a liquefaction plant is needed to convert natural gas into LNG. Overall, Cheniere can create its export terminal for half the investment required for a new one.

With world oil over $100 per barrel, equivalent to $17 per million BTUs of gas, versus domestic natural gas at $2.10 per million BTUs, the opportunity is obvious: Cheniere can deliver its gas to Asia or European customers well below current market prices.

Six developers with existing import terminals are following the Sabine Pass model. And Cheniere has another project in Corpus Christi. With the expansion of the Panama Canal, Gulf LNG projects can economically target the lucrative Asia market. By 2017, the U.S. could be exporting upwards of 13 billion cubic feet of LNG per day.

But exporters must overcome growing opposition to LNG exports by environmentalists and industrial users of natural gas. Exporters must also get multiple permits from environmentally conscious federal officials. And Rep. Ed Markey (D.-Mass.) has proposed legislation to bar federal approval of any LNG export terminals until 2025. Those who most fear global warming don't want anyone anywhere to use more fossil fuel, even "cleaner" natural gas.

It is uphill for the anti-gas crowd. High oil prices are driving a transition to natural gas, even as fuel for trucks and cars. In the U.S., the T. Boone Pickens Plan would displace gasoline and diesel fuel for compressed natural gas in large trucks. Pickens estimates savings of two million barrels per day of oil imports if the nation's fleet of 18-wheelers converts to CNG. The Pickens Plan might fail legislatively because it calls for subsidies to fuel the transition. But if CNG's nearly $2-per-gallon price advantage over gasoline continues, the concept will evolve via natural market forces, as it should....MORE
...Exporting energy, however, rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Pickens wants cheap natural gas for his 18-wheelers and opposes LNG exports. Industrial gas users argue that a vibrant LNG industry would propel domestic gas prices higher. A study by Deloitte said that exporting six 6 BCF per day of LNG would raise wellhead gas prices by 12 cents per million BTU (about 1% on a retail basis). Advocates of "energy independence" argue that exporting LNG would tie U.S. natural gas prices to global markets. 

The Energy Department's Office of Fossil Energy is considering whether exporting LNG is in the public interest. In the meantime -- shades of Keystone XL -- the department has effectively put a moratorium on new LNG export licenses....
And from:
US Coal Exports at Highest Level in Twenty Years
For the full year of 2011, the US exported 107,259 thousand short tons of coal. This was the highest level of coal exports since 1991. More impressive: exports recorded a more than 25% leap compared to the previous year, 2010. (see data here, opens to PDF).  Additionally, this was also a dramatic breakout in volume from the previous decade, which ranged from 40,000 – 80,000 thousand short tons per annum.  The below chart, from EIA Washington, does not capture the full year, though it certainly portrays the trend. Nota bene: this chart tracks the quarterly volumes of coal exports....MORE