Eleven years ago, energy majors Qatar Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, and Conoco Phillips came together to construct a $2 billion liquified natural gas import facility in Texas. The enormous Golden Pass terminal was meant to regassify liquified gas being shipped overseas, but lately it hasn’t seen much action. Thanks to the shale boom, the United States is flush with natural gas—fracking has destroyed the need for imports. Now, in an attempt to salvage some of their investment, Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum are investing an estimated $10 billion in converting the import facility into one suitable for gas exports. The New York Times reports:
Its 5,000 valves, 50 million pounds of steel and ship berth as big as 77 football fields — representing a $2 billion investment by Qatar Petroleum, Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips — have been dormant for nearly three years. The unexpected American shale fracking frenzy produced such a glut of domestic gas that the United States does not need Qatari gas anymore. […]The two companies propose to reverse some pipelines, using the existing gas storage tanks and docks and adding three enormous refrigerant plants to the complex on land now occupied by cattle grazing under a blazing sun. The plants will take American gas and cool it to minus 260 Fahrenheit, condensing it to a liquid that can be loaded on tankers and shipped to Asian, Latin American and European markets.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of the disruptive power of shale energy. And while energy majors look to salvage their initial investment with a retooling in Texas, other firms are moving to construct export facilities elsewhere. In Cove Point, Maryland, Dominion Resources just received the go-ahead from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to construct an export terminal, the fourth such facility to be built.The energy world isn’t nimble by nature. Projects require huge capital outlays, and typically take years to produce and start making that money back. It’s remarkable, then, that in just a decade America has gone from building out natural gas import capabilities to scrambling to find a way to unleash what has become a glut on global markets. We’re much, much more energy secure than we were pre-fracking, and the future looks even brighter.