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Leave oil and gas out of US-China trade dispute, energy execs warn

Key Points
  • Oil and gas should be left out of the escalating trade dispute between the U.S. and China, global energy executives told CNBC on Tuesday.
  • "One of the things that could be damaging for the LNG (liquefied natural gas) industry in the U.S. is the taxes that could be levied on them by China and others," Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, the chief executive of Qatar Petroleum, the biggest LNG exporter in the world, said.

Oil and gas should be left out of the escalating trade dispute between the U.S. and China, global energy executives told CNBC on Tuesday.

"One of the things that could be damaging for the LNG (liquefied natural gas) industry in the U.S. is the taxes that could be levied on them by China and others," Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, the chief executive of Qatar Petroleum, the biggest LNG exporter in the world, said.

Al-Kaabi told CNBC's Steve Sedgwick at the Gastech conference in Barcelona that the oil and gas sector should be "left out of this trade discussion."

"I think it needs to be looked at carefully because I don't think it's to the benefit of the oil and gas industry to have politics and taxation enter into this (trade dispute)," he said.

VIDEO3:5303:53
Qatar Petroleum CEO: China taxes potentially damaging to the natural gas in the US

Al-Kaabi's comments came after President Donald Trump announced a further round of punitive tariffs on Chinese imports that is likely to prompt China to retaliate.

The tariffs will start at 10 percent before rising to 25 percent at the start of 2019. China has said it will reciprocate, although Trump has promised further tariffs on around $267 billion of additional imports should it do so.

China has previously signalled that U.S. LNG — a form of the fuel super-chilled to liquid so it can be shipped more easily and safely — could be subject to a tariff of 25 percent, but has held off implementing the measure so far.

If imposed, the tariffs could deal a significant blow to the U.S. gas industry. China is the second largest importer of LNG globally and in 2017, about 15 percent of U.S. LNG exports went to the Asian superpower.

A liquified natural gas (LNG) storage tank and workers are reflected in water at PetroChina's receiving terminal at Rudong port in Nantong, China, September 4, 2018. 
Reuters

LNG exports matter to the U.S., particularly in its quest to become a dominant energy exporter. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its 2018 annual Gas report, released in June, that global LNG exports will increase 30 percent by 2023 with the U.S. expected to become the second largest supplier in the world.

Qatar Petroleum's Al-Kaabi recognized that while tariffs on U.S. LNG exports to China might help his company, in terms of making its LNG exports more attractive, the measures would have a negative impact on the industry.

"It could serve Qatar to be more competitive, in comparison with the U.S., when some of the countries put taxes on U.S. LNG — but I don't think long-term that it's good for the market to have politics and to have taxation on a very important basic requirement for humanity, which is energy."

Like it or not, global energy supplies are a politicized issue with mounting competition between major energy exporting economies.

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is just one disputed energy project. Designed to bring Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, the pipeline has been repeatedly criticized by Trump and the U.S. Energy Department, who both say Moscow is weaponizing energy and trying to make Europe reliant on Russian gas. Russia supplies around a third of the region's gas.

Nonetheless, the U.S. wants to boost its own LNG exports to Europe and the continent has promised to build a handful of terminals to store the gas.

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Europe needs a 'physical energy union,' Enagas CEO says

Marcelino Oreja, chief executive of Enagas, said that Europe could take both Russia's natural gas and U.S. LNG. "We're going to have both. We'll have LNG for seasonal reasons, so for peak demand, and we're going to have natural gas coming from Russia and Azerbaijan, and it's normally cheaper than LNG."

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