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Market forces work against LNG project's success

LNG From Coos Bay, Ore.? Don’t bet on it.

The LNG project, proposed to ship from Coos Bay, will be undercut by current market forces.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), composed of commissioners from the energy sector, will likely approve this project. Worldwide competition is making it a losing proposition.

Our friendly neighbors from north of our border are far from being dummies. They just seem to be behind the curve.

Initially, this LNG organization thought that importing a product at about $20 per unit and selling into a market at about one-third the price would work out because the cost in the United States would continue to rise. New fracking technology destroyed this assumption. The proponents then used the momentum gained — and eminent domain — to switch from importing LNG to exporting LNG.

Today’s pitcher is now throwing a sharp breaking curve and an occasional knuckle ball. The worldwide LNG price is tied to the price of oil. As we all know, the oil price, per barrel, has dropped more than 50 percent, from $100-plus per barrel to below $50 per barrel in the past few weeks. Drilling new fracking wells in the U.S. is grinding to a halt.

Both oil and gas supplies will be reduced by this. Natural gas prices in the U.S. will not likely be maintained but will rise. The future price of LNG, however, will drop because of the decline in oil price.

Another important, long-term effect is the supply of oil and gas by other countries around the world. “A Colder War” by Marin Katusa (Wiley & Sons, Inc.), outlines the production capability of these significant producers.

The U.S. ranks fourth among countries with the largest holdings of proven natural gas reserves. Russia (first), Iran (second) and Qatar (third), together have a total of 3,800 trillion cubic feet, compared with 300 trillion cubic feet in the U.S. Thus, the U.S. has about 8 percent of the reserves of the top three nations.

Russia presently has an LNG facility on Sakhalin Island that exports 10 million metric tons to China, Japan and South Korea. Russia expects to add 60 million metric tons of LNG capacity by 2020. The Coos Bay project will have a projected capacity of 8 million metric tons per year, when and if it is built.

Also, Sakhalin Island is just north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido, while Coos Bay is the expanse of the Pacific Ocean away. Note that Indonesia, Australia and Qatar are LNG exporters, with two of the three within the same shipping distance as Coos Bay.

Russia, Indonesia and Australia have regular gas wells, not fracked, that are longer-lasting than the U.S. wells. Also, Australia and Indonesia will be using some offshore, floating LNG plants, on shallow-water wells. These are mobile facilities that allow for multiple well collection at each facility.

Of further interest, every LNG operation consumes an additional 35 percent to 50 percent of the energy transported to the customer. Wouldn’t we, in the U.S., be far ahead by using all this natural gas energy to generate power, heat our homes and buildings and manufacture products?

Selling our natural resources, without value added by our labor and ingenuity, is a foolish game. Let’s chart a better course!

Ray M. Johnson lives in Shady Cove.