Foreign competition could hurt exports of U.S. natural gas

John Felmy

The window of opportunity is a narrow one for the United States to export its natural gas before other nations take advantage of their own resources, the chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute said.

“China alone has nearly two times what we have in terms of shale opportunities,” John Felmy said Wednesday. “If other countries move forward, it could change the dynamics of gas demand.”

Felmy is to speak at 11:10 a.m. today at the Energy Expo and Forum at Two Rivers Convention Center.

While some have said the opportunity to export natural gas from the United States is about 10 years, “It’s got to be less than that,” Felmy said.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has freed huge supplies of natural gas trapped in shales or what are known as “tight sands” in North America and is essential to development, Felmy said.

His appearance at the Energy Expo and Forum is his second and is part of a general educational outreach by the American Petroleum Institute about hydraulic fracturing.

Prices for natural gas remain low and producers are gravitating to locations where they can find “wet gas,” or a variety of other products, such as pentane, butane, natural gasoline and oil, Felmy said.

The Piceance Basin of northwest Colorado produces some wet gas, but southwest Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio are getting more attention, he said.

“Dry-gas producers clearly are challenged,” he said.

The industry is seeing welcome signs as the economy signals improvement, he said. Contracts for petrochemicals and fertilizer are on the increase, as well, promoting a generally optimistic outlook for the industry, Felmy said.

“Things have only gotten better in our outlook,” he said.


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