OPINION: For US gas producers who have suffered through years of anaemic gas prices, recent Henry Hub prices of $5.42 per million British thermal units is nothing short of magnificent.

Markets such as Europe, where the European Union Natural Gas Import Price is approaching $23.00 per million Btu, could lead to even greater profits.

So what is a US gas producer to do? Keep supplies at home, and record solid profits? Or ramp up production for exports where they are needed, and lucrative?

“Why not both?” most companies would instinctively answer. But there is a potential obstacle: shareholders.

Pioneer Natural Resources chief executive Scott Sheffield said recently that shareholders would still “punish” US producers who attempt to increase production — and their expenditures.

US oil and gas companies find themselves in an extremely complicated situation, where they have options that could help the bottom line in one way and damage it in another.

If they decide to increase gas production and ensure the US has manageable energy costs through the winter, they could be hit for neglecting the higher prices they could get through liquefied natural gas exports.

If they increase supplies to Europe, US politicians could attack them for not taking care of their own country. And then there are the shareholders who will attack them if they produce extra barrels no matter where they go.

For US producers, the days of “drill, baby, drill” must seem like a long time ago.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)