Friday, August 24, 2012

Golden Pass LNG

North Slope producer ExxonMobil holds a 30% position in Golden Pass Products LLC.  This week GPP announced their intent to move forward with a $10 billion LNG project at the Sabine Pass location.  The project will export an average of 2.0 BCFD of gas.

Obviously it's cheaper to build on the Gulf Coast rather than Alaska, but the cost and capacity data provide an insight into LNG project economics.

In Alaska producers have stranded gas.  Stranded gas has value as an energy source and as a means to maintain reservoir pressure.  At Golden Pass the problem is non producing stranded hardware.  The Golden Pass facility was built to receive imported LNG and sell that gas to the American market.  The shale gas revolution made import facilities like Golden Pass obsolete.  Gas from imported LNG can't compete with cheap domestically produced shale gas.

The Golden Pass export project investment equals about $14/MMBTU/yr export capacity.  ($10 Billion @2 BCFD capacity).  In comparison the Alaska Gas Pipeline Project plus LNG will cost about $40 Billion and export about 3 BCFD which equals about $37/MMBTU/yr export capacity.  By this measure the Alaskan project is over two and half times more expensive than a Gulf Coast stranded equipment project.

The big disadvantage to an Alaskan project is the pipeline required to move the gas to tidewater.  If the pipeline cost is eliminated from the calculation the Alaska Project would only cost 1.33 times the Golden Pass Project - a reflection of the cost of building in Alaska and the value of sunk assets at Sabine Pass.

Of course an Alaskan gas project has other benefits including affordable energy for (some) Alaskans and proximity to Asian LNG buyers.  At the end of the day these benefits will not tip the balance in favor of the Alaskan project.

The value of co-produced natural gas liquids (NGL) will promote Alaska project economics to a small degree, but not a significant amount, perhaps as little as $5 Billion discounted back to the project start date.  Helpful, but not a game changer.

Assuming a relative free market we can expect the low hanging fruit of Gulf Coast import terminals to be converted to export terminals fueled by cheap shale gas.  As more export facilities come on line the domestic price of gas can be expected to increase while abundance of supply puts downward pressure on the asking price of LNG.  The increased cost of feed stock and reduced revenue for products will tend to pinch out projects that move forward later rather than sooner.  Stir in a helping of anti free market regulation and the number of stranded equipment conversions may stay in the single digits.

Still standing by for good news in September, but I don't see a home team bounce in the project economics yet.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Kitimat Study Released

The next phase in development of the Alaska Gas Pipeline as defined by Governor Sean Parnell will be:

Third Quarter 2012: Two State-funded groups working on parallel projects must complete discussions to examine consolidation prospects. The groups are the North Slope producers and TC-Alaska (MOU parties) and the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC).
While waiting for this milestone you might want to read some good papers from the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) Website.

The latest paper titled "Pacific Access:  Part III - Economic Impacts of Exporting Horn River Natural Gas to Asia as LNG" is written from the perspective of Canadians analyzing the proposed Kitimat LNG project.  A lot of the data applies to decisions facing Alaskans.  The paper is well referenced and you can glean a lot of data.  For example: Total LNG Exports equal about 240 mmtpa.  The proposed Alaska LNG project would  added about 20 mmpta to that total, approximately 8% of the total market.  Capital cost of LNG plants are also addressed.  There's a fair amount of quantified data on shale gas production cost too.  File that under good-to-know but remember all shales are not equal and Alaskan shales are not yet proven producers (Although I'm wishing Great Bear the best of luck).

Another good reference is the KBR report titled "LNG LIQUEFACTION —NOT ALL PLANTS ARE CREATED EQUAL"

I hope these provide you something to read and study as we patiently await the September kumbaya milestone. My definition of September success is projects merged into one common plan.