Incoming Senate energy chair stands firm in opposition to expanded LNG exports

Senator Ron Wyden would appear to have ample reason to support the expansion of LNG exports from the US.

The Democrat and incoming chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has a proposed LNG export terminal in his home state of Oregon.

The developers and backers of the Jordan Cove Energy Project, which have asked the US Department of Energy for a permit to export LNG to countries that do not have free-trade agreements with the US, say the terminal would create more than 120 much-needed, high-paying jobs and turn Oregon into a lucrative gateway for LNG exports to Asia.

But Wyden has held firm to his opposition of expanded LNG exports, saying the Jordan Cove project and others like it could cause natural gas to trade as a global commodity, similar to oil. That would mean US consumers could expect to encounter volatile swings and price shocks for future natural gas supplies, he has said.

In a letter to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu on January 10, Wyden urged him to shelve a DOE-commissioned study on LNG exports, conducted by NERA Economic Consulting, which he said vastly underestimates potential growth in domestic gas demand.

“Export applications, which are typically for 20 years or more, and the associated LNG export terminals, will reshape the North American natural gas market for years to come,” Wyden wrote. “The shortcomings of the NERA study are numerous and render this study insufficient for the department to use in any export determination.”

The study, released in December, found such exports would be a boon to the US economy and would not cause any major adverse effects on US household wealth, employment or industrial competitiveness. DOE has said it may use it as the basis for ruling on 20 export permit applications to non-FTA countries beginning in February.

Proponents of expanded LNG exports say allowing them would be a major boost to the US gas industry and create jobs. Domestic gas production has soared in recent years with the shale boom, and experts say US LNG could be sold to gas-hungry Asian buyers for three to four times the price it fetches domestically.

The Jordan Cove project itself began in 2003 as a proposed LNG import terminal at Coos Bay, Oregon, with a 234-mile pipeline to a gas hub on Oregon’s border with California, as projections at the time expected gas shortages in the US.

But with the current glut of domestic natural gas, the project’s developers, Calgary-based Veresen, are now seeking to use the pipeline to instead send gas to Coos Bay and cool it to LNG for storage in tanks and eventual loading onto about 80 tankers a year for shipment to Asia.

Jordan Cove developers in March applied for a DOE permit to export LNG to non-FTA countries, joining 19 other companies that have asked for permission to export a combined 22.6 Bcf/d.

In his letter to Chu, Wyden said the NERA study is “seriously flawed” for using outdated data that contradicts more recent projections by the Energy Information Administration on future US gas consumption. He said DOE needs to establish clear criteria for approving LNG export applications.

“Proper, transparent mechanisms must be in place to effectively evaluate all LNG export applications–prior to their approval –to gauge whether each application is in the public interest,” he wrote. “The inadequacies of the NERA study only underscore the need for the department to establish those criteria and procedures in a transparent and accurate manner informed by data that most accurately reflects the world today.”

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  1. Dennis at November 5, 2013 5:19 pm

    We need jobs, taxes from the exportation of the LNG, trade deficit reduction, less polution, transition fuels from Coal as well as Heavy Oil until we can come up with other viable options. LNG is the answer, but it is one that Senator Wyden is reluctant to look at until we do another study. Is this the real reason? I doubt it, but lets be honest, this horse has been beat to death. Wake up and just approve LNG as meeting our goals in the above mentioned areas, one more study is not going to change these facts.

  2. mrsuperstar at January 18, 2013 1:15 am

    The trade deficit is out of control. Energy markets are global. Exporting liquefied natural gas will be great for helping the Asian tigers and will loosen the stranglehold Russia has on the natural gas market. Jobs will be created in the United States. I can’t imagine DOE is going to not allow for these permits to go through.

    Environmentalists are correct though. We need a better long term solution than fossil fuels. But this one is definitely going through and people are going to make a TON of money selling this stuff.

    • Kuat at April 18, 2014 5:21 am

      I think a good place for New Mexico to start is by using LNG in New Mexico vehicles (both government and private) as an alternative fuel rather than ethanol which serves the corn producing states and is less efficient than LNG. How dumb is it to subsidize corn producers while our own state with an abundance of LNG is in economic crisis? I am very offended when I see a NM government vehicle driving around NM proudly displaying a plaque stating that this vehicle uses 90% ethanol or words to that effect. The governor should defy the feds for the good the people of her state and market locally and world wide what we have in abundance. The federal government has shown no reluctance to run roughshod over the states when it is to their advantage and we should push back when it is in the interests of the people of New Mexico.

  3. Ron Wagner at January 13, 2013 9:53 pm

    Natural gas is the future of energy. It is replacing dirty old coal plants, and dangerous expensive nuclear plants. It will fuel cars, trucks, vans, buses, locomotives, aircraft, ships, tractors, air conditioners, engines of all kinds. It costs far less. It will help keep us out of more useless wars, where we shed our blood and money. It is used to make many products. It lowers CO2 emissions. Over 4,100 natural gas story links on my free blog. An annotated and illustrated bibliography of live links, updated daily. The worldwide picture of natural gas. Read in 66 nations.
    ronwagnersrants . blogspot . com

  4. Ron Wagner at January 13, 2013 9:52 pm

    Any serious, well informed, and fair environmentalist knows that replacing coal burning with natural gas is job one for improving air quality around the world. Coal pollutants include particulates, mercury, sulfuric acid, nitrogen oxides, etc. It is responsible for millions of early deaths yearly. Natural gas is the cleanest fuel there is, aside from hydrogen. It is the cheapest, and the most abundant.

    Keeping our natural gas to ourselves damages the whole world’s air. It also acidifies the ocean. We can best help the environment by replacing coal burning with natural gas. In twenty years everyone will have reasonably priced natural gas, by fracking and all the other ways it is extracted or produced.

    Blocking exports of natural gas is analogous to Asia banning inexpensive products from America. We have been greatly enriched by their low priced goods, and our balance of trade is destroying our economy. We would sacrifice many thousands of high paying jobs by not exporting. Canada and Australia will export, and benefit, as will many other countries, Russia is going all out for the market.
    Will we stand by and lose huge profits due to environmental insanity?

  5. name withheld at January 12, 2013 11:55 am

    Sadly, Ron Wyden is an example of the leaders that we have today. His knowledge of energy and energy markets is negligable. This is obvious from his and Sen. Feinstein’s pursuit of gasoline price gouging investigations after a series of refinery mishaps on the West Coast. It makes a good political sound bite but offers no positive contribution. Certainly, support for building a refinery in Eastern Oregon to use crude oil from the Bakken would never work with his eco-mentalist constituents. Additionally, his appreciation of the positive geopolitical impact US exports of LNG would have is even less than his knowledge of energy and energy markets. Yes, keep the natural gas here and push our allies into the arms of our enemies….brilliant policy! Then of course his son’s hedge fund trading activities have no relationship with any of Senator Wyden’s actions or knowledge. Lastly, why would Oregon need any new private sector jobs? People can just go work for the government and join a public sector union.

  6. SD3 at January 11, 2013 10:12 am

    Wait. Isn’t Wyden the same senator who complained that we were importing too much and exporting too little?

    Mr. Wyden did inspire OPEC to speak out the other day:
    “We have decide to stop exporting petroleum since it causes oil to trade as a global commodity. Exporting means that Arab consumers encounter volatile swings and price shocks for future oil supplies.”

    Senator Smoot, er, Wyden, will I’m sure be well paid for his work by large domestic users of natural gas like Alcoa.


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