This year, the United States became the world's biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter as deliveries to energy-starved buyers in Europe and Asia surged. In the current year, five developers have signed over 20 long-term deals to supply more than 30 million metric tons/year of LNG or roughly 4 Bcf/d, to energy-starved buyers in Europe and Asia.
Unfortunately, whereas the United States has the world’s largest backlog of near-shovel-ready liquefied natural gas projects, takeaway constraints including limited pipeline capacity are seen as the biggest hurdle to growth of the sector. In the Appalachian Basin, the country’s largest gas-producing region churning out more than 35 Bcf/d, environmental groups have repeatedly stopped or slowed down pipeline projects and limited further growth in the Northeast. Indeed, EQT Corp. (NYSE: EQT) CEO Toby Rice recently acknowledged that Appalachian pipeline capacity has “hit a wall.”
Luckily, the Permian Basin and Haynesville Shale are still able to shoulder much of the growth forecast for LNG exports including pipeline development. Analysts at East Daley Capital Inc. have projected that U.S. LNG exports will grow to 26.3 Bcf/d by 2030 from their current level of nearly 13 Bcf/d. For this to happen, the analysts say another 2-4 Bcf/d of takeaway capacity would need to come online between 2026 and 2030 in the Haynesville.
And it appears the U.S. is up to the task.
According to RigZone, initial findings from Westwood’s upcoming onshore pipeline market forecast has revealed that between 2022 and 2028, the world will spend ~$369B on 310,000km of new oil and gas pipelines, with North America responsible for the lion’s share. The forecast says that 205,000km, or two-thirds of total installations, will be gas pipelines, with several projects already lined up in the United States.
Heavy investment in O&G pipelines is also anticipated in China as the country looks to boost imports, including the West-East Gas Pipelines 4 & 5 (a combined 6,323km) and the Xinjiang Coal-to-Gas pipeline (8,372km). Strong activity is also expected in Eastern Europe & FSU, driven by the construction of additional pipeline capacity in Russia to serve Asian markets. In Africa, the proposed 6,500km-Central African Pipeline System designed to link 11 countries and improve energy security in the region could potentially mark one of the biggest pipeline projects on the continent.
U.S. Gas Projects In The Pipeline
According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), four U.S. LNG projects are currently under construction, and another 12 have won regulatory approval by federal regulators while four more have been proposed totaling 40 Bcf/d of potential LNG exports.
The pivotal Permian Basin is preparing to unleash a torrent of gas and gas projects to meet exploding LNG and nat. gas demand. Energy Transfer LP (NYSE: ET) is looking to build the next large pipeline to transport natural gas production from the Permian Basin. The company is also working on the Louisiana-based Gulf Run pipeline, which will transport gas from the Haynesville Shale in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana to the Gulf Coast.
Back in May, a consortium of oil and natural gas firms namely WhiteWater Midstream LLC, EnLink Midstream (NYSE: ENLC), Devon Energy Corp. (NYSE: DVN) and MPLX LP (NYSE: MPLX) announced that they had reached a final investment decision (FID) to move forward with the construction of the Matterhorn Express Pipeline after having secured sufficient firm transportation agreements with shippers.
According to the press release, ‘‘The Matterhorn Express Pipeline has been designed to transport up to 2.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas through approximately 490 miles of 42-inch pipeline from Waha, Texas, to the Katy area near Houston, Texas. Supply for the Matterhorn Express Pipeline will be sourced from multiple upstream connections in the Permian Basin, including direct connections to processing facilities in the Midland Basin through an approximately 75-mile lateral, as well as a direct connection to the 3.2 Bcf/d Agua Blanca Pipeline, a joint venture between WhiteWater and MPLX.’’
Matterhorn is expected to be in service in the second half of 2024, pending regulatory approvals.
WhiteWater CEO Christer Rundlof touted the company’s partnership with the three pipeline companies in developing “incremental gas transportation out of the Permian Basin as production continues to grow in West Texas.” Rundlof says Matterhorn will provide “premium market access with superior flexibility for Permian Basin shippers while playing a critical role in minimizing flared volumes.”
Matterhorn joins a growing list of pipeline projects designed to capture growing volumes of Permian supply to send to downstream markets.
WhiteWater revealed plans to expand the Whistler Pipeline’s capacity by about 0.5 Bcf/d, to 2.5 Bcf/d, with three new compressor stations.
MPLX has several other expansion projects under construction. The company says it expects to finish construction on two processing plants this year, and recently reached a final investment decision to expand its Whistler Pipeline.
Also in May, Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE: KMI) subsidiary launched an open season to gauge shipper interest in expanding the 2.0 Bcf/d Gulf Coast Express Pipeline (GCX).
Meanwhile, KMI has already completed a binding open season for the Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP), with a foundation shipper already in place for half of the planned 650 MMcf/d expansion capacity.
In an effort to increase LNG exports to the European Union to stave off an energy crisis amid the war in Ukraine, the U.S. Department of Energy has authorized additional LNG exports from the planned Golden Pass LNG Terminal in Texas and the Magnolia LNG Terminal in Louisiana.
Jointly owned by Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) and Qatar Petroleum, the $10B Golden Pass LNG export project is expected to become operational in 2024, while Magnolia LNG, owned by Glenfarne Group, will come online by 2026. The two terminals are expected to produce more than 3B cf/day of natural gas, although Magnolia is yet to sign contracts with customers.
Previously, American LNG developers were unwilling to construct self-financed liquefaction facilities that are not secured by long-term contracts from European countries. However, the Ukraine war has exposed Europe’s soft underbelly and the harsh reality is forcing a rethink of their energy systems. To wit, Germany, Finland, Latvia, and Estonia recently expressed the desire to move forward with new LNG import terminals.
Meanwhile, the DoE has approved expanded permits for Cheniere Energy's (NYSE: LNG) Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana and its Corpus Christi plant in Texas. The approvals allow the terminals to export the equivalent of 0.72 billion cubic feet of LNG per day to any country with which the United States does not have a free trade agreement, including all of Europe. Cheniere says the facilities already are making more gas than is covered by previous export permits.