U.S. to export LNG to non-FTA countries
Subject to environmental review and final regulatory approval, Freeport LNG Terminal on Quintana Island, Texas is conditionally authorized to export at a rate of up to 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day (Bcf/d) for a period of 20 years. The Department granted the first authorization to export LNG to non-FTA countries in May 2011 for the Sabine Pass LNG Terminal in Cameron Parish, Louisiana at a rate of up to 2.2 Bcf/d.
The development of U.S. natural gas resources is having a transformative impact on the U.S. energy landscape, helping to improve our energy security while spurring economic development and job creation around the country. This increase in domestic natural gas production is expected to continue, with the Energy Information Administration forecasting a record production rate of 69.3 Bcf/d in 2013.
Federal law generally requires approval of natural gas exports to countries that have an FTA with the United States. For countries that do not have an FTA with the United States, the Natural Gas Act directs the Department of Energy to grant export authorizations unless the Department finds that the proposed exports "will not be consistent with the public interest."
The Energy Department conducted an extensive review of the application to export LNG from the Freeport LNG Terminal. Among other factors, the Department considered the economic, energy security, and environmental impacts - there were nearly 200,000 public comments related to the cumulative impacts of increased LNG exports – and determined that exports from the terminal at a rate of up to 1.4 Bcf/d for a period of 20 years was not inconsistent with the public interest.
Energy companies are seeking federal permits for more than 20 export projects that could handle as much as 29 billion cubic feet of LNG a day. If approved, the resulting export boom could lead to further increases in hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique also known as fracking that has allowed companies to gain access to huge stores of natural gas but raised widespread concerns about alleged groundwater contamination and other problems.
A drilling boom has lowered natural gas prices while boosting production by one-third since 2005. Natural gas production reached an all-time high of 25.3 trillion cubic feet last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. ■