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ExxonMobil: North America to Import Nearly One-Fourth of Global LNG in 2030

Global imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) will reach 110 Bcf/d by 2030, with North America accounting for almost one-fourth of the import total, an ExxonMobil Corp. official said last Thursday.

North America's LNG imports are forecast to grow to 9 Bcf/d by 2010, 18 Bcf/d by 2020 and 26 Bcf/d by 2030, said Todd Onderdonk, senior energy advisor for ExxonMobil, at the 59th annual meeting of the Energy Bar Association (EBA) in Washington, DC. This compares to less than 1 Bcf/d of LNG imports in 2003 for North America.

The continent will be the second largest LNG importer in the world following Europe, which is expected to import 34 Bcf/d of LNG in 2010, 52 Bcf/d in 2020 and 62 Bcf/d by 2030, according to the Dallas, TX-based oil giant.

North America will closely rival Asian-Pacific countries for LNG imports, Onderdonk noted. These countries are expected to import 15 Bcf/d in 2020 and 22 Bcf/d in 2030, ExxonMobil estimates.

The biggest exporters of LNG are most likely to be the Russia/Caspian countries (36 Bcf/d in 2020 and 45 Bcf/d in 2030), the Middle East (21 Bcf/d in 2020 and 31 Bcf/d in 2030), Africa (21 Bcf/d in 2020 and 25 Bcf/d in 2030), and Latin America (7 Bcf/d in 2020 and 9 Bcf/d in 2030).

Global natural gas demand currently is growing at about 2.2% per year, with much of the growth concentrated in developing countries, Onderdonk said. He expects developing countries to account for 74% of the 250 Bcf/d growth in gas demand between now and 2030, with industrialized nations making up the remainder.

"Gas is the fastest growing primary source" of energy, said Philip Mihlmester, senior vice president of ICF Consulting. By 2010, he estimated that an incremental 13 Bcf/d of LNG capacity will be required to meet demand worldwide. And more than 11 Bcf/d will be needed by 2020 just to meet the natural gas demand in the United States.

Mihlmester noted that LNG will help mitigate the ascending natural gas prices, bringing them down to roughly $4/Mcf.

LNG is an "absolute critical component" of the U.S. energy mix, said Jerry Bloom, partner with White & Case Global Energy Initiative. "If Congress does not clarify LNG siting authority" in its comprehensive energy bill, "we're not going to see new facilities."

Jason Grumet, executive director of the National Commission on Energy Policy, said his group "come[s] up short on the idea of full authority" for FERC over the siting of new LNG facilities. Instead, the commission, which began in 2002 and is funded by the Hewlett Foundation, believes FERC and the U.S. Coast Guard should have "primary," rather than exclusive, authority over siting of onshore and offshore LNG facilities

Nearly all the panelists said they were hoping for an energy bill this year, but some were understandably exasperated after four failed attempts on Capitol Hill. "At this point, I'm not even sure that I care that they [Congress] get it right," said Norma Formanek of the Electric Power Research Institute, adding that she just wants lawmakers to get "something" out this year.

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