JACKSON – The president of a Colorado-based energy company today told industry insiders that the ability to export liquid natural gas is as big an issue for the U.S. energy industry as the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“To me this is as big if not a bigger issue than the Keystone Pipeline,” said John Harpole, the president and founder of Mercator Energy at the Oil & Gas Fair in Jackson Friday.
He said he recently wrote an article for a magazine about the problems created by the “glacial pace of LNG exports.” As of now, Harpole said it could be 2020 before federal regulators address every LNG export license on the table. And with geopolitical forces like the Russia-Ukraine conflict driving immediate need for exports, he said projects can’t wait that long.
“If we as a country had been focused on exports and some issues creeping up, things might have played out a little different in Eastern Europe,” he said. Earlier this month, Harpole said Russia cut flows of natural gas into Poland in what he and other analysts call a power play punishing Poland for sending gas to Ukraine.
Despite the importance of the news as Harpole saw it, he said U.S. mainstream news barely touched it.
“Imagine the weapon it is to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to turn off volumes to Poland,” he said, warning that if the area has a cold winter, people could easily start freezing to death and that the conflict has much more to do with energy than most people realize. “Energy for Putin is a weapon, for a lot of people in the U.S. [the issue]’s an inconvenience.”
In this situation, Harpole said the U.S. should fight back with its own shale revolution. He said in a few “stunning” years, the U.S. has moved with the shale boom into an attitude of abundance, particularly with natural gas. In the past decade, the U.S. went from 14th to fourth in proved reserves of natural gas as companies burst onto the shale scene. Even so, six plays have accounted for 90 percent of the domestic oil growth and “most” of the natural gas production increases.
“We have this wealth right now in shale gas and we should project that wealth and the impact of that would serve us for a long time,” Harpole said. “We have to keep drilling. The more we keep exporting the more we keep exporting our style of democracy.”
Yet with that growth, he said federal response has been too tepid to gas exports.
“I think we’re losing this huge opportunity to insert ourselves in a very productive way to change things,” Harpole said.
In the meantime, Harpole will enjoy the abundance of natural gas.
“It’s been a complete reversal,” Harpole said. “We need to accelerate exports to deal with the volume [we do have]. It’s the best story I’ve seen in my 34 years in the energy business.”