'Unleash American shale' to end energy crisis, gas driller says

US gas drillers could increase supplies by about 20 per cent if not for pipeline and export constraints. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - The largest United States natural gas driller is using the global energy crisis to renew its call for more investment in domestic infrastructure such as pipelines, which it says will enable increased experts and ease shortages.

US gas drillers could increase supplies by about 20 per cent if not for pipeline and export constraints, EQT chief executive Toby Rice said in an interview on Thursday (Oct 14).

Gas fields far from major population centres and export hubs cannot fully open the taps because of a dearth of pipe capacity and too few export facilities, he said. More of such infrastructure would make more fuel available both domestically and abroad, he said - something gas-starved economies in Asia and Europe sorely need with winter approaching.

A new bonanza in US gas drilling also would help accelerate the phasing out of dirtier energy sources, primarily coal, Mr Rice said.

Frustrated pipeline projects have been the Achilles heel of US shale gas as environmental groups, regulators and landowners successfully derailed installations intended to deliver more of the fuel to markets and home and overseas.

"The solution is very simple: unleash American shale," Mr Rice said. "What we do need is access to more pipeline infrastructure and more LNG (liquefied natural gas) facilities."

A series of proposed pipelines aimed at moving gas from reserve-rich Appalachia have been scrapped over the past couple of years.

Last month, PennEast Pipeline, a joint venture of five companies, including Southern and Enbridge, halted development on a proposed 187km conduit after failing to receive permits. Separately, completion of the 488km Mountain Valley Pipeline has been pushed into next year amid ballooning costs.

Prices for the heating and power generation fuel are skyrocketing in Europe, which is competing fiercely with Asia for cargoes of LNG. Even in the US, where inventories are more abundant, the commodity has more than doubled this year.

Meanwhile, gas for January delivery in the Boston area, which is heavily dependent on LNG shipments, is trading at four times the US benchmark price.

"The largest gas field in the world has been isolated and it's not connected to the world market," Mr Rice said.

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