Should the United States export shale gas? Are there benefits to exporting? Political constraints and concerns that we do not have a sustainable amount of shale fields are hindering the development of liquefied-natural-gas plants.

New techniques have been put into place to access the natural gas trapped in shale rocks, including the use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, which has transformed the United States into the world’s largest natural gas producer. Estimates suggest that we have enough gas in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas to supply as much as 862 trillion cubic feet of fuel, enough to supply the United States for 30 years. 

By allowing the export of natural gas, many are fearful that it will increase the cost of domestic gas, and we will be trading away the enormous economic advantage of having large, low-cost, domestic natural gas supply. One gas-industry player, BG Group PLC is confident that the United States will be able to supply about 9% of the global liquefied–natural-gas output by the end of the decade.

The rising production of natural gas has driven down prices and is leading owners of import terminals to explore exports. Cheniere Energy Inc. has proposed a liquefaction facility at its Sabine Pass terminal. This would be the first new North American export project since 1969. BG has a preliminary agreement to take gas from Sabine Pass, which is located in Cameron Parish, LA. 

The cost of building LNG terminals can run into the billions. It is a huge investment and some aren’t confident that we have enough experience with shale gas or a sustainable amount to make that kind of judgment call. If you look at it from a producer’s point of view, you can only do that from an economic aspect. You must be assured that you have a long-term competitive supply before making such an enormous investment.

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