Saying he is bullish on natural gas given climate drivers, economic and ultimate global supply optionality for the fuel, a ConocoPhillips market research expert Tuesday predicted continued vacillations between oversupply and undersupply in the nation’s natural gas markets for the foreseeable future.

A current 60% drop in the drilling rig count cannot be ignored, according to James Duncan, ConocoPhillips market research director, speaking at the LDC Gas Forum: Rockies & West meeting in Irvine, CA. “The future is bullish for natural gas even with a high oversupply picture going forward because gas is clean-burning and apparently very plentiful.”

Over relatively short 12-month periods the North American market is able to go from oversupply to undersupply and back again, said Duncan, noting that longer term, the industry’s goal should be to create more equilibrium in the rig count and ultimately in gas supply/demand.

“The number one thing that is going to move us forward is the environmental and climate regulation, and I am more interested in that as we go forward than anything else,” Duncan said. “We talked about it last year and discussed whether or not the carbon technology push would go up. My answer has always been that natural gas would be the natural way of answering any form of short-term response to cap-and-trade.”

Other speakers on a gas infrastructure and new supply panel, such as Craig Coombs, business development director at El Paso Natural Gas’ western pipeline operation in Colorado Springs, CO, expressed unconcern with the major rig count drop and is convinced that Rockies gas supply should not drop off too much before eventually rebounding some time next year.

“Supplies will continue to be very flexible from the Rockies,” said Coombs, although he noted that El Paso has lowered its initial capacity for its Ruby Pipeline going west out of the Rockies from 1.5 Bcf/d to 1.2 Bcf/d.

“I have never seen a industry that could turn and react to market changes as fast as the gas producers can,” said Todd Kremer, business development director for Kern River Gas Transmission Co. He cited the Rockies’ quick shift from boom to flattening out as an example, predicting things will turn around again and head upward just as fast.

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