CERAWeek by IHS Markit

The Trump game changer that could soon turbocharge the US gas industry

The gas market may become more global

President Donald Trump's energy policy stands to make U.S. natural gas not only a bigger game changer for the United States but the whole world.

The United States could become an even bigger producer of natural gas, both to itself and globally if the president's push for pipeline development succeeds and gas is brought to new markets in the United States, said Fatih Birol, executive director of International Energy Agency. That would create more production overall, and it would be met with demand.

"Shale gas from the U.S. changed the game," Birol said, but he said it could create another wave in world markets if the United States goes through a new burst of activity.

"It could bring the cost down in the U.S. and give a big boost to industry," said Birol. "It can provide attractive alternatives to coal in Asia. It could provide a very attractive alternative to Russian pipeline gas in Europe. It may change the gas prospects in the U.S. and, more importantly, the world."

Birol said if the Trump agenda succeeds in "de-bottlenecking" U.S. gas and in reducing regulations, then U.S. gas production could grow from an expected 600 billion cubic meters in the next 20 years, by another 200 billion cubic meters above that. The U.S. currently produces 450 billion cubic meters.

The United States is already an exporter of natural gas with Cheniere's liquefied natural gas shipments out of the Sabine Pass in Louisiana, and with pipeline gas shipments to Mexico.

Cheniere has two LNG trains in operation and will have five, plus other capacity is planned by 2019. The United States currently has 9 million tons of capacity, and there is another 55 million to 60 million tons under construction, according to IHS Markit.

For now the industry is coping with low prices, and IHS has said it foresees the next five years as a period of flat prices, but the industry is moving along with new investments nonetheless.

Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods announced a $20 billion spending program at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit annual energy conference in Houston. Exxon's plan includes 11 projects that will create new demand for gas. Exxon has said it would double shale production over the next decade.

A worker monitors a series of heavy
Robert Nickelsberg | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Chesapeake CEO Robert Lawler, attending CERAWeek, said his company, like others, has planned for low prices. Lawler said Chesapeake worked to bring down debt but at the same time brought down costs and raised production. He said wells that had produced 10 million cubic feet a day of natural gas before 2011 are now producing up to 40 million or more. The boost came from the increase in lateral drilling to 15,000-foot lengths from the early days, when companies drilled out 3 feet to 5,000 feet horizontally.