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NatGas Oversupply Could Change Worldwide Energy Use

The natural gas oversupply bubble, driven by gigantic growth in shale gas, could spread around the world, becoming a game changer for almost everyone.

"Going forward, looking out, I see natural gas being more prevalent as an energy source in larger numbers of countries around the world than it is now or ever has been,"  Jim Duncan, director for market analysis at ConocoPhillips Gas and Power, told attendees at the "LDC Forum: Rockies and the West" conference in Los Angeles last week.

Duncan called natural gas "quite literally the most oversupplied energy source we've ever seen, and that will be exploited as time goes on. The technology the United States is using on shale will soon spread around the world that is going to make gas very cheap relative to other energy sources for some time to come," he said.

Ultimately, Duncan sees the oversupply which is not taken up by its usual residential, industrial and power generation markets, contributing to a surge toward compressed natural gas and LNG in transportation, and even in the gas-to-liquids market.

The oversupply situation in the U.S. right now could have been much worse, Duncan said, but unusually prolonged heat spells over much of the United States in the summer helped soak up some of the extra gas for power generation.

It all comes down to a "flattening basis market," and that is highly characteristic of an oversupplied market. "The good news for end-users is the prices are staying low, and the not-so-good news for producers is that prices are staying low."

The oversupply situation is evidenced by the the 3,590 Bcf  that currently sits in working gas storage. If injections continue like they have for the next few weeks, some analysts believe the industry will enter the winter heating season with almost as much gas as a year ago, which set an all-time record for supplies at the end of a refill season.

"We're not seeing as much liquefied natural gas (LNG) as we thought we would be at this time, but the reality is we'll probably eventually see more LNG than we thought we would because there is a lot more being produced that has no home." Duncan said. Compounding the situation is the fact that "the North American natural gas grid has been overbuilt."

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