(Bloomberg) — The White House has a new darling in the energy sector: liquefied natural gas.
First Gary Cohn — President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser — voiced support for a terminal in the U.S. Northwest that would send tankers full of LNG to Asia. Then Tuesday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry praised an export terminal proposed by Exxon Mobil Corp. and Qatar Petroleum in Texas that, he said, will create about 45,000 jobs during construction and position the U.S. as the “dominant exporter” of LNG to the world. His agency had approved the project for shipments earlier in the day.
“We will continue to expand efforts so that there may be additional LNG announcements coming in the future," Perry said at a Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York. LNG “advances our national security interests. It enhances our allies’ access to diverse sources of energy.”
While Trump made the revival of America’s coal industry a hallmark of his campaign, his administration is waking up to the potential jobs bonanza offered by the two dozen applications to build LNG export terminals under review. That’s a far cry from a year ago when Trump reportedly didn’t know what LNG stood for.
The Energy Department cleared the Golden Pass terminal in Texas to export as much as 2.21 billion cu. ft. of gas a day to non-free trade agreement countries. Operations are due to start in 2021.
The agency’s approval was the last regulatory hurdle for the terminal. Its fate now comes down to a final investment decision by the owners, which may prove to be the most difficult step yet, Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Anastacia Dialynas said.
LNG exporters have struggled to attract enough commitments from buyers to begin construction amid a global glut of supply. In the U.S., no new customer agreements have been signed since mid-2016, and Golden Pass doesn’t yet have long-term export or supply contracts in place, she said.
While the global LNG market will probably remain oversupplied through the mid-2020s, a second wave of export projects may emerge during the next decade to meet new demand. And then Golden Pass could be arriving just in time.
If the terminal moves forward to construction, Dialynas said in a report, “It could signal the beginning of the next wave of global LNG.”
A lack of a quorum at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could meanwhile hold up approvals for other U.S. LNG exporters. The agency lacks the voting power it needs to decide on major projects until Trump adds a third member to the commission.
Veresen Inc.’s Jordan Cove export project in the U.S. Northwest, presumably the one Cohn was referring to last week, had planned to apply to the commission for approval in the second half of this year after being denied a permit in 2016.
Bloomberg News by Ryan Collins