US gasoline heartland woos international patrons as Europe’s vitality disaster deepens


Over the roar of hydraulic fracturing equipment, the boss of America’s largest pure gasoline producer weaves by means of a gaggle of international diplomats, sprinkling advantageous grains of sand into their fingers.

Kitted out in company-branded laborious hat and shirt, Toby Rice, chief govt of EQT, is in gross sales mode as he glad-hands dignitaries within the Pennsylvania sunshine.

He has bussed two dozen officers from 15 Washington embassies 230 miles deep into the shale gasoline heartlands to advertise his reply to the vitality disaster that’s unfolding because the world searches for replacements to Russian gas exports.

“That solution is unleashing US LNG,” he stated, referring to liquefied pure gasoline, the chilled, condensed type of gasoline that may be funnelled into tankers and shipped abroad.

As Europe tries to disconnect itself from Russian provide within the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, proponents of the US gasoline trade see an enormous alternative for his or her LNG exports to plug the hole. Critics see a cynical ploy to make use of a international battle to push extra fossil fuels.

The frac sand Rice is sharing will likely be used to prop open fissures in rock deep underground to launch gasoline from the Marcellus and Utica shale performs of the Appalachian basin — the epicentre of American manufacturing.

The US is the world’s main producer of pure gasoline, pumping round 96bn cubic ft a day. In the primary 4 months of the 12 months, the nation exported 11.5bn cu ft/d of gasoline within the type of LNG, three quarters of which went to Europe.

The sum is about to rise. In a deal struck with the Biden administration, Brussels has pledged to extend EU demand for American gasoline by 4.8bn cu ft/d by the tip of the last decade. For Rice, that’s solely a place to begin: he needs the US to greater than quadruple its international LNG exports to 55bn cu ft/d by 2030 — greater than complete European consumption.

“I’ve never been more excited about the future,” Rice stated. “We need to recognise the fact that we are in a bad situation right now. And we need to unleash our resources — unleash American energy.”

The change in fortunes for the US gasoline trade has been speedy. Just 18 months in the past its prospects appeared bleak. A $7bn deal between French utility Engie and Texas LNG group NextDecade fell aside over issues over the environmental influence of US gasoline.

But in the present day the winds have modified because the geopolitical state of affairs pushes vitality safety forward of local weather issues in lots of international locations. “The war in Ukraine has clarified a lot of minds,” stated Fred Hutchison, president of the US LNG Association, the Washington-based foyer group that organised this week’s diplomatic bus tour. “There’s one hell of a scramble on right now.”

Foreign diplomats tour EQT’s King Hippo drilling website in Pennsylvania © Myles McCormick/FT

EQT’s personal share value has greater than doubled because the starting of the 12 months. The firm’s first-quarter manufacturing volumes of 492bn cu ft have been up by 19 per cent from the earlier 12 months, whereas its adjusted web earnings quadrupled to $334mn.

Still, whereas gasoline may be cleaner burning than coal, its combustion for warmth and energy pumps enormous volumes of carbon dioxide into the environment — reaching an all-time excessive of seven.35bn tonnes final 12 months, in line with the International Energy Agency. Expanding gasoline export infrastructure dangers locking in dependence on fossil fuels that the world must shift away from if international warming is to be contained.

John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s local weather envoy, this week blasted what he known as “vested interests” that he stated have been “trying to exploit Ukraine and tell people we need a whole new generation of infrastructure built out” that might undermine local weather targets.

US oil and gasoline operations additionally spew round 13mn tonnes of methane into the environment yearly, in line with the Environmental Defense Fund. A much more potent greenhouse gasoline than CO₂ within the brief time period, methane is the first element of pure gasoline.

“Methane is an issue we attach great importance to — we are looking for greener and cleaner natural gas,” stated Thitiwat Sukhasvasti, a counsellor from the Thai embassy who joined the tour.

As the diplomats have been shuttled between fields scattered with bales of hay and shining tractors, EQT talked up its measures to clamp down on leaks and clear up the manufacturing course of. Some have been impressed.

“For me personally, fracking was kind of a bad word — maybe up until today,” stated Gints Zadraks, a counsellor on the Latvian embassy.

Line chart of $/mn Btu showing US natural gas prices are climbing, but still lag Europe

Yet, even past air pollution, there are large challenges to any growth of US LNG exports. Pipeline initiatives to hold gasoline from Appalachia to the coast have confronted dogged opposition, forcing some to be cancelled.

For now, the nation’s seven LNG export terminals are working flat out. One of those — the Freeport LNG facility on the Texas coast — was taken offline this week after an explosion, placing round a fifth of US capability out of motion for the subsequent three weeks.

Still, regardless of Kerry’s scepticism, the geopolitical state of affairs has created a brand new alliance between the gasoline sector and the Biden administration because it seeks to offer Europe with a substitute for Russian gasoline.

“Europe has put itself in a really precarious position,” Amos Hochstein, the state division’s senior vitality safety adviser, and a former LNG firm govt, advised a US Senate panel on Thursday. “And we, the United States, are now in the position to help them get out of this precarious condition.”