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Ex-Cheniere boss Charif Souki says natural gas market to balance as prices slide

Former Cheniere Energy boss Charif Souki says the answer to the glut of natural gas is even lower prices, which he says his new exporter Tellurian Investments will supply.

Natural gas prices hit a more than one-month low this week due to warm weather in the U.S., as well as a persistent global oversupply. But Souki told CNBC that low prices were key to rebalancing the market.

The founder and former chief executive of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) pioneer Cheniere Energy, Souki co-founded Tellurian Investments this year with Martin Houston, the former chief operating officer of BG Group.

Souki said Tellurian would look to undercut competitors' prices by about 17 percent when it started shipping in six years' time - a price reduction Souki told CNBC could be achieved by engaging producers early in the process and through better engineering.

Tellerian's LNG terminal in Louisiana is expected to be operational by 2022, by which time Souki said he expected supply-side dynamics to have tightened up as the abundant current supply reduced prices, spurring demand.

Record natural gas volumes being exported by Russia to Europe were contributing to the current glut, while new markets were coming on board on a "weekly basis," Souki said. Emerging producers included India, Abu Dhabi and Vietnam, he said.

A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker arrives at a gas storage station.
STR | AFP | Getty Images
A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker arrives at a gas storage station.

The broad array of suppliers meant that natural gas should be priced on a standalone basis, rather than as it is currently, through a reference to oil or petroleum prices, the LNG veteran said.

"You don't have any justification to indexation to anything else anymore," he said, adding, "On that basis, it makes sense to be the low cost producer."

As for how the next U.S. president would influence energy policy in the world's biggest economy, Souki said he expected continuity from a Hillary Clinton administration.

"She understands the balance between environment concerns and the need for clean energy and at the same time the very, very important role that natural gas plays on the global basis and the important role that the U.S. can play now that it has become natural gas rich and has the ability to export to other countries," he said.

Souki did not comment on what he expected from a Donald Trump administration, as he noted that he did not expect the Republican candidate to win.

"If he does, I might have to reconsider my nationality," said the outspoken Egyptian-born American.

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CORRECTION:

This story has been updated to reflect that Charif Souki was born in Egypt but is Lebanese.