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South Korean Trade Pacts to Send More U.S. Natural Gas Overseas

Energy conglomerate SK Group this week advanced a long-term strategy to secure more U.S. natural gas for South Korea under a couple of agreements, including one with Continental Resources Inc. (CLR) and General Electric (GE). Korea Gas Corp. (Kogas) also signaled it would expand its U.S. gas export holdings from the Gulf Coast to Alaska.

South Korea-based SK said it plans to invest $1.6 billion in the United States over the next five years to build its portfolio of domestic gas projects. As part of its strategy, subsidiary SK E&S expanded a joint development agreement (JDA) with CLR, and SK obtained a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with GE to bring more gas to South Korea, the second largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) importer in the world.

SK plans to not only to import more U.S. gas but also sell the gas to other countries.

“The agreement signed by South Korean company SK and U.S. companies GE and Continental is significant as it is a base for a high level global partnering model of which not only businesses from the two countries but also governments could benefit from shale gas development in U.S.,” said SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won.

The agreement was signed in Washington, DC, by SK E&S President Yu Jeong-joon, GE Vice Chairman John Rice and CLR CEO Harold Hamm.

Three years ago SK E&S agreed to buy almost half (49.9%) of CLR’s 44,000 net acres in the Cana Woodford Shale area of the Anadarko Basin. The JDA today controls about 100,000 net mineral acres.

Continental is running five drilling rigs today in the northwestern part of Cana, and the revised JDA would add more rigs, Hamm, an energy adviser to President Trump, told CNBC on Wednesday.

"When Continental adds a new rig in October, that's an additional 100 new jobs in Oklahoma," Hamm said in the interview. "This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of jobs. Permits that were delayed under the former administration for years are now being approved…”

SK has “the capital to develop resources here and has a market for this supply of natural gas,” he said. "By 2019 the United States will expand our exports 500%. In the U.S. we are currently exporting 2.5 Bcf and will increase to 11 Bcf by 2019. If we keep permits coming through on facilities, we can grow that amount of gas around the globe to 30 Bcf by 2025, 2030. This creates jobs and opportunity for everybody."

The expanded JDA would give CLR “further entry into Asia,” he said. “SK is set up to sell and trade LNG from America to other countries, not just South Korea. Trade in America is very important to them. This signing is more than symbolic. It's the future of America's energy expansion."

Under the MOU with GE, SK would supply LNG and liquefied petroleum gas, while GE would provide power generation equipment. The companies also agreed to collaborate on renewable energy development in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

The MOU was signed ahead of a planned summit in Washington, DC, between South Korea President Moon Jae-in and President Trump. The investment should help the United States narrow the trade gap between the two countries, according to SK officials.

Meanwhile, an Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP) subsidiary secured an MOU with Kogas to consider participating in the Lake Charles LNG Liquefaction Project. Houston-based BG LNG Services LLC, a Royal Dutch Shell plc subsidiary, also is studying the project now underway in Lake Charles, LA. Kogas already has a 20-year sales and purchase agreement with Cheniere Energy Inc. for LNG supplies from the Sabine Pass Liquefaction facility in Louisiana.

As designed, Lake Charles LNG would use ETP’s existing regasification import facility to accommodate a liquefaction project.

The nonbinding MOU would allow the parties to study the project’s economics, a potential engineering, procurement and construction agreement, and the feasibility of sourcing/marketing U.S. LNG. The 440-acre site is connected to ETP’s Trunkline Gas Pipeline System, a system that runs 2,200-plus miles and interconnects with more than a dozen interstate and intrastate pipelines.

Kogas on Thursday also signed an MOU with a Sempra Energy unit and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. for the Port Arthur, TX, LNG project that would be sited along the Houston Ship Channel. In mid-2015, Port Arthur LNG LLC was granted authorizationto export gas worldwide from the terminal.

And this week the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. (AGDC) secured an MOU with Kogas for a framework to cooperate in several areas of Alaska LNG, including project investment, development, operations and other arrangements. 

Alaska LNG is an integrated gas pipeline and LNG infrastructure project that would provide a link between gas resource on Alaska's North Slope with the growing LNG markets in Asia.

The MOU “lays the groundwork for a significant relationship between the State of Alaska and the Republic of Korea," said AGDC President Keith Meyer.

The MOU establishes a joint committee with decisionmaking authority and sets the framework for Kogas to potentially participate in developing Alaska LNG.  

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