Official: Gas-export market ripe

Russian monopoly can be broken, Lithuanian ex-energy chief says

There will be a “window of opportunity” in 2016 for the United States to begin exporting natural gas to Lithuania — and break up the monopoly Russia has long held on the resource, the former energy minister for Lithuania said Friday.

That would be good news for the western Colorado natural gas industry, which, along with local economic development officials, is touting the benefits of Piceance Basin natural gas to potential buyers on the Pacific Rim, in Eurasia and in eastern Europe.

The first step toward exporting gas to Lithuania is to get the message across about the vast resources available in the Piceance and the technological advancements made in tapping into those resources, former Lithuanian energy minister Jaroslav Neverovic said.

“You can have an impact on a global scale with these resources,” Neverovic said in an interview with The Daily Sentinel editorial board, hours before speaking at the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual meeting Friday night.

Asked what he would tell U.S. manufacturers and chemical companies who are against exporting natural gas, Neverovic said such a view is “short-sighted,” and that closing off the sector impedes investment.

“It will be a permanent competitive advantage for local producers,” Neverovic said, noting that the U.S. will always have cheaper gas because it doesn’t have to liquefy it.

As energy minister for Lithuania, Neverovic oversaw the construction of a floating liquefied natural gas storage and regasification vessel on the Baltic Sea. The terminal is capable of supplying up to four billion cubic meters of gas per year for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

He also negotiated an LNG contract with Norway’s Statoil, which now provides 20 percent to 25 percent of Lithuania’s natural gas. Up until this year, Russia state-owned Gazprom was the sole supplier of natural gas to Lithuania and was charging Lithuania 30 percent more for that gas than western European countries, even though it was closest to the source.

It took just two years to conceive and build the LNG terminal in Lithuania. By comparison, it’s taken that long for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to haggle over approving LNG exporting facilities in the U.S., including the proposed Jordan Cove project in Oregon, said David Ludlam, executive director of West Slope COGA.


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