Gas export deal threatens jobs in Rockies, industry group says

A new deal opening the door for Russian natural gas exports to the United States threatens energy jobs in the Rockies, an industry advocate group said Thursday.

The Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, or IPAMS, reacted Thursday to an announcement a day earlier that state-run Russian company Gazprom had reached a deal to ship 20 million tons of liquefied natural gas over 20 years to the United States via a Shell terminal in Baja California, Mexico.

IPAMS said Thursday the arrangement makes the United States even more dependent on foreign energy while jeopardizing some of the 150,000 exploration and development jobs in the Rockies.

The announcement by Gazprom comes just days after John Harpole, a member of IPAMS’ board of directors, warned in Grand Junction of possible growth in liquefied natural gas imports to the United States this year that could further depress natural gas prices. Those falling prices have contributed to drilling slowdowns in western Colorado and other parts of the country.

Even Harpole, a Denver gas broker, seemed surprised Thursday by how quickly his predictions were starting to be fulfilled. But Harpole had singled out Gazprom as a particular source of concern in his presentation before Club 20 members Saturday. The company has developed a liquefied natural gas facility on Sakhalin Island. With the slow economy in places such as Asia, Harpole figured Gazprom would look for other markets.

Despite low prices in the United States, it at least has high potential to store excess gas.

Harpole said the country has 70 percent of the world’s available underground gas storage.

Harpole notes that some European countries have become vulnerable because of a reliance on gas from Gazprom and Russia’s willingness to occasionally cut off that supply.


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