If you ask Fred Hutchison, president and CEO of the LNG Allies, things have changed a lot over the last few months.
Whereas only a few months ago European countries were eschewing U.S. LNG imports and calling it “dirty gas” international interest in U.S. natural gas has turned 180 degrees to the point where officials in Europe, Asia and Africa are clamoring for more U.S. gas to come their way.
What a difference a Russian invasion of Ukraine, which contributed to a global supply glut, can make. Supply crunch or not, winter is coming and many nations are left wondering where they’ll get their heat.
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“One of the things that is true in a number of European countries is that they’re just like the U.S. They rely on gas for fuel,” Hutchison told reporters during an LNG Allies-arranged field tour of EQT Corp. drilling, completion and production facilities in Greene County, Pa, on June 6. The tour hosted energy trade officials from 15 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.
“In Hungary and Slovakia more than 50% of their households are heated [with gas]. If they don't have gas this winter, people are freezing to death,” Hutchison continued. “This is a very touchy situation. Russia has already cut off gas to Bulgaria, Poland and Finland, and some other countries that refuse to pay in rubles, and so it's a tough time.”
U.S. natural gas producers are ready and eager to step in. Who better to show off the clean processes—low-carbon production and little methane leakage—than the nation’s largest natural gas producer, EQT?
EQT’s CEO, Toby Rice, has been leading the charge to fend off misinformation about the U.S. natural gas and show off its ability to be a catalyst to the solving global warming and energy security challenges at the same time. [Full-disclosure: Rice will present at this week’s DUG East Conference and Exhibition where he will discuss his “Unleash LNG” plan intended to show the world why natural gas shouldn’t be overlooked as a global greenhouse gas emissions solution.]
“The reason why there’s been a lot of support, I think, is because the ‘unleash’ plan is targeted. It’s addressing the biggest issue: emissions [from] foreign coal. It's incredibly impactful. There’s nothing bigger,” Rice said in an earlier interview with Hart Energy.
Reducing emissions in the drilling, completions and production processes was at the top of the agenda for the tour, which offered an incredible amount of close up access to equipment. Among the highlights was a look at an e-frac completions site, methane monitoring equipment and the replacement of pneumatic parts, all of which contribute greatly to the emissions reduction effort of operators throughout the U.S.
For more, check out Oil and Gas Investor’s Q&A with EQT Corp. CEO Toby Rice in the June 2022 issue.
“This is the third time we’ve done a tour, but we were never able to get out to see a real rig, see how fracking’s done,” Hutchison said. “So, we’re getting an opportunity, and we’re honored. [LNG Allies] has four upstream members as well as a number of LNG export companies as members. EQT is one of our members. They graciously agreed to host.”
Among the countries that sent embassy representatives from Washington, D.C., were Japan, Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, Portugal, The Netherlands, Greece and Poland.
Hutchison and Rice both agree that in order for the U.S. to fill the gas supply shortage around the globe, more must be done domestically to create the infrastructure to make it happen. Unfortunately, we’re already behind, according to Hutchison.
“I think everybody recognizes that because we didn’t keep building LNG export projects as fast as we should have, we’re in a period now where we’re going to reach peak production here in a couple of months and there's no new capacity in ’23 and no new capacity in ’24, so it's really ’25 and ’26 before we can really begin to bring a really strong additional relief to Europe,” he said. “It’s going to be a white-knuckle situation this winter.”
Hutchison admits that a lot of interest from Europe right now stems from the war in Ukraine. The key shift for U.S. producers will be for European and Asian buyers to recognize the environmental benefits of U.S. natural gas for the long term.
“That is always an issue. We’re going to Brussels. There’s a joint meeting that we’re helping organize with Eurogas [an association representing the European gas wholesale, retail and distribution sectors towards the EU institutions] in a couple of weeks with some of our upstream and LNG companies, and we're meeting with a bunch of European counterparts over there,” Hutchison said.
“Brussels is going to have to step up, the EU’s probably going to have to step up and say on the back end, ‘All right, listen. You guys enter into these long-term contracts, be sure in supply, and be secure on prices, then we’re going to help you out in 15 or 20 years, and it's not going to work.’ U.S. LNG has no destination restrictions,” Hutchison continued. “The minute a tanker leaves our shores, if somebody wants to pay more money for it [they turn around].”
While there is still a lot of politics to be discussed on both continents, U.S. natural gas producers are ready and willing, and they’re showing the world they have the processes and technology to keep U.S. gas cleaner than any other gas in the world.
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