Issues regarding the export of natural gas

The fracking boom has led to low prices and high supplies of natural gas in the United States, which makes consumers and manufacturers who use natural gas very happy. But prices overseas are much higher, so there are 19 applications to sell liquefied natural gas overseas, and many are watching to see what the Obama administration will decide.

In Europe and Asia, where natural gas sells for $10 to $16 per million British thermal units—three to four times the U.S. price—demand is high. Imports from the U.S. could also give European countries greater power to bargain on prices with Russia’s Gazprom (OGZD), now a dominant supplier of natural gas. All that’s missing are the U.S. facilities to liquefy gas for export.

There’s a ton of money to be made for gas producers, and the natural gas could replace coal, which is growing as an export to Europe. Since natural gas is cleaner, many argue that allowing exports would be good for the environment.

But there is opposition from domestic manufacturers who don’t want to see natural gas prices go up. The article linked above points out that “Paul Cicio, president of the Washington-based trade group Industrial Energy Consumers of America, has called for delaying approvals for some new export terminals to avoid a domestic price shock.”

Stay tuned . . .

Legal issues and shale gas boom

The shale gas boom and fracking revolution are having a significant impact on the economies of states like Ohio. Some environmentalists are also seeing the positive side despite the drinking water controversy as natural gas burns much cleaner that coal.

But many legal issues remain and loom on the horizon.

Ohio’s anticipated energy boom from hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits has oil and gas companies, investors and property owners scrambling for a piece of the action.

On the way to digging up the expected treasure, though, are legal sand traps that could slow or even stop production. They go well beyond the basic issue of who owns the buried oil and gas rights, disputes hashed out in courts since the start of the Utica shale rush in 2010.

Emerging battles concern possible threats to endangered species, Clean Air Act violations and claims that oil and gas drilling in Ohio is abnormally dangerous.

The Utica shale layer, centered in Ohio but stretching from Quebec to Tennessee, has been touted as holding hydrocarbons worth tens of billions of dollars — maybe $500 billion worth, if you believe the prediction of Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corp., the top driller in Ohio.

The Ohio Shale Coalition estimates that almost 2,000 fracking wells will be drilled in the state by the end of 2014.
Recent fracking-law discussions at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and the McDonald Hopkins law firm in Cleveland, as well as interviews with energy-sector attorneys, suggest a boom of another sort — in legal questions that riddle the shale play.

Stay tuned as this issue develops.

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