Growing natural gas exports from the US are vital to help address energy crises in other countries, liquefied natural gas executives told the 23rd World Petroleum Congress.

With the upcoming addition of Venture Global’s 20 million tonnes per annum LNG facility in Louisiana, US LNG export capacity will get a significant boost.

The US last year produced 48 million tonnes of LNG, Wood Mackenzie Research Director Ian Thom recently told Upstream.

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Charif Souki, Chairman of Tellurian and founder of Cheniere Energy, said this natural gas can replace biomass, such as wood or dung, as a cooking fuel in places like sub-Saharan Africa, where millions of people die every year from indoor pollution.

While US politicians last month asked the federal government to potentially ban crude oil exports, Souki said the US needs to decide how it will approach these global energy crises moving forward — if it will support other regions or turn to isolationism.

“Here in the US, we don’t really have to be concerned about an energy crisis, because we define an energy crisis differently than most of the rest of the world,” Souki said.

“For us, a dollar [more] at the pump is an energy crisis, or that we’re going to have to trade our F-150 for a Toyota.”

Meanwhile, about 35% of the world still lacks access to clean cooking, and an estimated 2.4 billion people will still lack access to clean cooking in 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.

Americans have avoided a true energy crisis over the last decade because of the shale revolution, Souki said. But for the rest of the world, the issues of an energy crisis are much more immediate than those of a climate crisis.

“Until we have addressed the energy crisis, it is going to be very difficult to address a climate crisis with any kind of immediacy or urgency,” Souki said.

Maintaining energy security

Natural gas and shale have played a key part in allowing the US to achieve more energy security, but a transition to renewable and clean energy raises concerns that the country will become more dependent on China.

Metals used in clean energy are found all over the world, with hotspots in Chile, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Australia, yet China refines and processes the more copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium and rare earth metals than any other country.

“It took us 50 years to become energy independent, hopefully it’s going to take us 50 more years to become dependent on somebody else,” Souki said.

“It makes absolutely no sense to trade Opec for China.”

“It makes absolutely no sense to trade Opec for China.”

Charif Souki, chairman of Tellurian

Jim Teague, Chief Executive of Enterprise Products Partners, said there are barriers in the US that keep oil and gas companies from delving into clean energy technologies, including carbon capture.

“We could repurpose to carbon capture and sequestration, but it’s got to make money. We’re not going to do it for the hell of it,” Teague said.

“If there’s not a business there, then we’ll probably send those people back to doing something else.”

He said the cost of carbon is unclear, and even if the 45Q tax credit is expanded to $85 per tonne, he’s not sure if that will be enough.

Ultimately, Souki said the US is the land of opportunity, and oil and gas companies will do what they want, regardless of the barriers in front of them.

“This is America. We are not going to be stopped by regulators or by bean counters. When we see an opportunity we’re going to pursue it,” Souki said.

“Sometimes it will be slower than we like, probably most of the time. But we’re going to get to the end result.”

Souki and Teague were speaking during the 23rd WPC's session titled Can Natural Gas, Including LNG, Deliver on the Promise of a Clean & Affordable Transition Fuel?

The moderator was Dr Raul Camba of Accenture.