Less than a decade after policymakers were debating how many liquified natural gas import terminals the country needed, the industry today is moving quickly to send surplus fuel to Europe, Asia and other parts of the world.
The rapid change in domestic production has reversed decades of energy policy and conventional thought.
Natural gas production has slowed somewhat over the past three years as producers turned their attention to more profitable oil. Producers, however, are still recovering large amounts of natural gas along with the oil they are seeking.
The industry could quickly ramp up production again if prices strengthen, Devon Energy Corp. CEO John Richels said Thursday at the University of Oklahoma Energy Symposium.
“If we wanted to as an industry, we could ramp up very easily,” he said. “We have a long portfolio of opportunities, and that’s only with today’s technology.”
Richels pointed out that Devon has only two drilling rigs active in the Barnett Shale near Fort Worth, Texas, an area where Devon had 30 rigs drilling for natural gas when prices were higher.
For now, natural gas users are looking to take advantage of the low domestic prices as compared to the rest of the world.
The price of natural gas reached $4.63 Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In much of Europe, the price has held at more than $10 per thousand cubic feet for the past few years, long before Russia invaded Ukraine.
In Japan and other parts of Asia, natural gas prices top $14.
As a result, steel companies and chemical companies that have moved overseas in recent years are moving back to the United States.
“So far, the United States has been a big winner,” Richels said. “I think we have the opportunity to do more for the manufacturing and industrial sector in this country since they have had since the ’50s. It’s a remarkable change we have seen.”