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Our Ports Are Key to Our Energy Revolution

Our Ports Are Key to Our Energy Revolution
Dennis-Thompson/Dreamstime

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Monday, 07 August 2017 02:40 PM Current | Bio | Archive

U.S. energy exports are set to hit new record highs as America’s energy revolution fuels a resurgence in global exports.

Now, with the U.S. shipping its liquefied natural gas (LNG) to 23 countries around the world, our country is helping to create a more competitive global gas market.

Just last month, data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) revealed that LNG exports in the first four months of 2017 have already exceeded the total for all of last year, with shipments leaving Cheniere’s Sabine Pass export facility for many of those global destinations.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) also just predicted that the U.S. will become the world’s largest LNG exporter by 2022, exporting 3.7 trillion cubic feet (TCF) per year, as more facilities, like the Golden Pass facility in Texas, receive their licenses to export.

Oil exports are also booming, reaching just over 500,000 barrels per day. With a large build-out of export terminals underway in places like the Port of Corpus Christi and the Port of Houston, some analysts believe that that exports will rise to more than 2.25 million barrels per day, higher than Kuwaiti’s exports. Natural gas liquids (NGLs)s and petrochemical exports are also on the rise, further proof of America’s growing influence in the global energy markets.

As we saw recently during the lead up to the G-20 Summit, U.S. energy exports are having a major impact on geopolitics. Touting America’s “energy dominance,” President Trump said that the U.S. was happy to export LNG to Europe "so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy.”

U.S. exports are not only having their impacts in Europe but in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, where it is significantly impacting OPEC’s role in creating a sustained global energy supply and ongoing influence on these markets.

Maintaining this growing influence, of course, is dependent on our ability to keep grow and maintain our country’s energy revolution.

This means:

  • Continuing exploration and production of unconventional resources
  • Continuing access to offshore oil and gas resources
  • Ensuring access to new offshore and onshore resources
  • Developing new technologies that enable greater efficiencies in resource development
  • Working to create a sound regulatory environment that facilitates economic exploration, development, transportation and utilization of resources

Of course, the ability to export this energy is critical to our success. For natural gas, it provides a relief valve for abundant supplies to get to market, helping stabilize prices at home and abroad while supporting continued drilling and production in various shales across the U.S.

LNG exports, pipelined gas to Mexico, NGL exports (ethane, propane, butane, isobutane and pentanes) and chemicals and refined product feedstocks all represent expanding export market opportunities for natural gas. Even crude oil and refined products are helping grow U.S. export markets.

Finally, cheap and abundant energy has revitalized the U.S. manufacturing sector, increasing the number of opportunities to export finished products. A common theme for these export opportunities is their dependence on critical infrastructure like ports, pipelines and highways in order to support their long-term viability.

To create this long-term viability, that infrastructure is not only needed, it’s essential to growing our energy dominance. Ports alone are a critical link that connects our domestic and offshore energy production to global markets. They also serve a critical role importing cargo that contains products and materials needed to support continued energy development.

But with all the growth surrounding energy exports, petrochemicals and chemicals manufacturing, refining and other activities, our nation’s ports and energy terminals – like much of our national infrastructure – need repair, maintenance, upgrades and enhancements.

New port tenants and the increasing volume of vessel traffic along with raw tonnage at ports like Houston and Corpus Christi require infrastructure upgrades such as channel improvements (deepening and widening these waterways) and bulkhead, or seawall, repairs. This type of work requires federal and non-federal dollars, permitting and environmental reviews.

And while federal dollars were authorized for such work under the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), signed into law in 2014, funds were never applied to critical port enhancement projects.

However, that is changing as the maintenance, enhancements and expansion of our nation’s infrastructure has become a major priority for the Trump administration, which has prioritized the need to upgrade and repair our deteriorating roads, bridges, transmission grid, pipelines, airports and railways.

This infrastructure is our nation’s circulatory system, the heart, lungs, veins and arteries that keep our economy humming and healthy, internally and in our ability to connect to the rest of the world. Through growth and maintenance, we preserve this infrastructure and help provide hundreds of thousands of jobs while injecting billions of dollars in economic development.

As the administration and Congress consider spending on a comprehensive infrastructure program, they need to remember to fund the ports that support our growing energy export economy. Because a healthy, safe infrastructure system is critical to supporting the viability of our country’s energy revolution.

Unfortunately, that isn’t recognized by all, as America continues to struggle building pipelines, transmission lines and facilities that are needed to support our growing energy economy, largely due to legal actions and public relations efforts by opponents of energy development.

And while these egregious delays ensue, it’s critical that we support the growth and maintenance of our existing ports, like Corpus Christi and Houston, and new ports, like the one being built in Cameron, Louisiana.

They’re the key to increasing our future exports and building economic growth.

Jack Belcher is executive vice president for HBW Resources and consults energy and transportation clients on government relations, regulatory affairs, situational risk management, coalition building and stakeholder relations. He is also Managing Director of the National Ocean Policy Coalition

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U.S. energy exports are set to hit new record highs as America's energy revolution fuels a resurgence in global exports.
ports, key, energy, revolution
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2017-40-07
Monday, 07 August 2017 02:40 PM
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