As a bevy of liquefied natural gas export projects inch their way along, one organization is trying to activate shale supporters to lean on their legislators to speed the process.
Our Energy Moment — a coalition of companies, institutions and individuals tied to shale development founded in Louisiana in 2013 — staged its first event in Pennsylvania on Thursday at the Sen. John Heinz History Center in the Strip District. The event, which included short speeches from former Gov. Tom Ridge and from U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, was a chance for the organization to recruit Pennsylvania companies and business leaders to join their cause.
Joining the coalition is free, said Jason French, the group’s spokesman and director of government and public affairs at Cheniere Energy, a Houston-based developer of LNG export terminals along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The group wants to recruit enough companies that the organization will be able to reach out to its members if and when relevant legislation is in need of their support.
“This began in Louisiana and Texas, but it’s going to spread,” Mr. French said. “It was important for us that our third stop be in Pennsylvania because the energy revolution, the story is really here.”
Mr. French described the organization as “grassroots,” working behind the scenes to promote their cause, and “grasstops,” centered around events and forums, such as the one held Thursday.
There is no facility in the continental United States that is able to ship liquefied natural gas to countries that do not have free-trade agreements with the U.S., which means producers in Pennsylvania don’t have access to high-demand markets in Asia. More than a dozen projects are in the planning phase — and two are under construction after receiving final government approval — but completion of any of the projects is still years away.
Opening overseas markets to Marcellus shale gas is important for producers looking for better returns on their investments. Natural gas prices are about half of what they were in 2008 — good news for consumers but bad news for developers who have spent billions of dollars drilling in southwestern Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
A 2013 study conducted by Fairfax, Va., energy consulting firm ICF International reported that an average of $6.7 billion in economic activity and 39,000 Pennsylvania jobs will be created by 2035 due to LNG exports. Only Texas and Louisiana stand to benefit more, according to the report.
“If we do this right, we can have Pennsylvania jobs on the well pad extracting the energy, in the steel mill making the pipeline for logistics and transmission,” said David N. Taylor, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association. “We can have jobs at the refineries at the LNG terminal, and we can have jobs at the shipyard, building the ships that will carry this energy manufactured product to markets around the world.”
Though Our Energy Moment was not seeking donations, Mr. French said it is funded by several members of its coalition, including Cheniere, San Diego-based Sempra Energy and Houston-based Freeport LNG. The organization has no physical offices — a board of directors holds teleconferences on a regular basis — so while it is extending itself to Pennsylvania, it will have no physical presence here outside its events.
Mr. French said the group plans to extend its outreach to Ohio and New Jersey.
The majority of LNG export terminals are planned for the Gulf Coast. Only one, Dominion Resource’s Cove Point LNG project on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, is planned for the Eastern seaboard.
But Marcellus gas will be shipped from the Gulf Coast, Mr. French said, using pipelines originally built to deliver gas from the south to the north, before the shale boom.
During a question-and-answer session at the event, the question was asked if there could be an export terminal even closer to Marcellus gas, perhaps in Philadelphia where already oil refiners use a port on the Delaware River.
Mr. French said he was unaware of any planned project within his company, which is building a $20 billion LNG export facility called Sabine Pass LNG in Louisiana. But, he said, a future move by another company wouldn’t surprise him.
“Proximity to the resource,” he said, “is an important component.”