October 1, 2013

Advanced drilling techniques will help US become leader in LNG exports

Thanks to the massive boom in natural gas production in the United States during the last decade, the country is poised to become a major exporter of liquid natural gas (LNG).

Thanks to the massive boom in natural gas production in the United States during the last decade, the country is poised to become a major exporter of liquid natural gas (LNG).

The world currently consumes about 240 million tons of LNG every year, The New York Times reported. By 2030, that amount is expected to more than double, reaching 550 million tons a year. Hydraulic fracturing has made natural gas production possible in shale formations once thought too hard to penetrate. With continued success in the U.S. energy renaissance, the country could supply 200 million tons, or about half, of global LNG demand by 2030.

Other experts say the amount of U.S. LNG exports will be much lower - around 60,000 tons annually. Jean-Marie Dauger, executive vice president of the French utility GDF-Suez, said she expected the U.S. to build about a dozen LNG plants in the future, the Times reported.

While estimates differ, it's no doubt the U.S. will play a major role in worldwide energy production moving forward.

Energy companies expect continued success

Others also agree America's energy boom will be important to LNG production in the future. Steve Pryor, president of ExxonMobil Chemical Company, spoke at the Shale Insight 2013 conference in late September on the topic. He said the market for LNG will grow quicker than global demand for ethylene - a petrochemical with a demand growing more than 50 percent the pace of natural gas.

“Since most of this demand growth is outside the United States, this presents an outstanding opportunity to boost America's exports,” Pryor said. 

ExxonMobil expects the LNG market will triple in size between 2010 and 2040 - increasing to about 15 billion cubic feet per day.

“While we don't know how many LNG projects ultimately will prove viable, we need to let the competitive market determine which ones get built and which don't,” Pryor said. “Beyond the issue of permitting, the United States must embrace free-trade policies for the products of natural gas, whether they are petrochemicals or LNG.”

ExxonMobil is part of a joint venture that is planning to build a new LNG facility in Texas to aid in U.S. LNG production and possibly LNG exports in the future.

Other companies investing in LNG facilities around the world include Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and Total, according to the Times. The cost of building LNG facilities in the United States are much lower than elsewhere in the world. The price of constructing a LNG facility in the outback of Australia, for instance, could cost $2,500 per ton of a plant's annual capacity. However, in the U.S., those prices are likely to cost $700 per ton, the source reported.

Advanced technologies

Fracking “changed the game” in energy exploration, The Motley Fool recently reported. In 2010, the United States produced 21.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, but consumed 23.8 tcf of gas - showing the nation still needs outside resources. By 2040, however, the country will produce more natural has than it consumes. It's estimated the U.S. will produce 33.1 tcf by 2040, while consumption will hit 29.5 tcf, the source said. The Energy Information Administration predicts U.S. natural gas production will grow 1.5 percent annually.

Energy explorers can turn to robust gearing equipment from Broadwind Energy, which can fabricate industrial weldments and sub-assemblies and produce gears of all sizes including large gears and gearboxes used in oil and gas and mining applications. The company provides precision loose gearing and custom gearboxes for both offshore and onshore drilling operations including frac pump drives used in hydraulic fracturing.