U.S. Ports Look to Take Advantage of LNG Exports, Panama Canal Expansion

Friday April 5, 2013

Business leaders in the U.S. state of Louisiana are investigating the possibility of using two ports in the state for the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from U.S. shale drilling operations, local newspaper Tri-Parish Times reports.

The expansion of the Panama Canal could open up new opportunities for industry in the southern U.S. state by facilitating the movement of bigger ships in the area.

"We identified a huge opportunity in the exportation of liquefied natural gas," said Steve Vassallo, director of the Terrebonne Economic Development Authority, who visited Panama along with other local leaders to investigate possible opportunities.

"U.S. shale gas exportation to Latin America has led to the conversion of several Gulf coast ports into LNG export points.

"We determined to investigate how the Port of Terrebonne and Port Fourchon might be able to capitalize on the opportunity."

However, David Rabalais, director of the Port of Terrebonne, said that even though there is a strong market for LNG, it may be difficult to find investment for exports from the port.

"It is a very expensive undertaking and we may be a little late on the curve," he said.

"I don't see it as a very strong possibility."

Rabalais added that opposition to LNG exports from environmental groups could also put a damper on any plans.

At Port Fourchon, Shell Oil Company announced last month that it plans a partnership with Edison Chouset Offshore, which could be the first LNG barging and bunkering operation in North America, according to another Louisiana newspaper, the Weekly Citizen.

Shell, which has said it wants to greatly expand the use of LNG for transportation, is also planning a gas liquefaction plant in the nearby state of Georgia in partnership with Kinder Morgan Inc.