Executives push feds for export approval

The Senate Energy Committee is holding a series of so-called “forums on natural gas.” To the uninitiated, they sure look like typical Congressional hearings. For insiders, they look like Congressional hearings without the usual five minute speaking limits.

Tuesday’s round table focused on the pros and cons of exporting LNG. Senator Lisa Murkowski said Alaska missed the window on selling LNG to American markets, and the window is closing on Asian ones as well.

“Some 63 different projects around the globe are up for consideration” she said. “In Alaska we like to think our gas, our oil is better than everyone else’s. But at the end of the day, we’re in a world market.”

Not all 63 projects up for consideration will snag the billions of dollars in financing – or pass government muster – to become liquefaction facilities and export terminals.

On Friday, the federal government granted conditional approval to a facility in Texas to export LNG to non-free-trade countries. That includes Asian powerhouse Japan – a would-be buyer of Alaska’s piped LNG.

In Washington Tuesday, industry executives, perhaps to pressure federal regulators sitting across the table, said they need the okay to export while conditions are ripe.

“Customers need reliability of supply,” said Sempra Energy executive Octávio Simões. He said foreign companies try to lock in as much LNG for a period of several years.

“If they feel that the U.S. government is not going to supply reliably, they will sign at a higher price, from Australia or Russia or somebody else, that is willing to give the assurance that the supply is there,” he said.

Sempra operates an LNG import terminal in Louisiana that it hopes to convert to an export facility. It’s waiting for approval.

Larry Persily, the federal coordinator for the Alaska North Slope natural gas pipeline, said Alaska is now competing with British Columbia, Eastern Africa and pending projects in the Lower 48.

“There’s a crowd trying to get through this window. The question is how much Alaska wants to work to see if they can get this through this window, or the next opening,” he said in a Tuesday phone interview.

Persily said this window is for the chance to sell gas to foreign companies in the 2020′s, but there will certainly be more windows in the future.