US energy companies are rushing to export natural gas in a move that could also boost the country’s manufacturing and construction industries.
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Major oil companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., and BP PLC are moving forward with a $65 billion project to export gas from Alaska’s North Slope. An 800-mile pipeline and a plant to convert the gas into liquid to make it exportable would boost industries that supply steel and other construction materials.
The decision to go ahead with the pipeline is the latest evidence that the US is transforming from a major energy importer to a major energy producer and exporter.
American companies have been leaders in producing gas and oil from shale rock formations and increasing production of gas by 28% from 2005 to 2011. This new supply of energy scrapped the former plan to build an oil pipeline from Alaska to the continental US.
The Alaska project will compete with a dozen other plants who also hope to get federal approval to sell liquefied gas to Asian countries, in particular, who are energy hungry.
Natural gas prices are at their lowest since 1999 and have renewed the manufacturing industry, benefited consumers who rely on gas for heat and electricity, and spurred new economic activity.
Some are concerned the new projects would raise natural gas prices
and want to maintain the competitive advantage offered by low prices.
It may take a decade for the Alaska project to be ready to export natural gas because of the legal, technical, political, and financial barriers still to be overcome.
The new plans offer hope for the US economy in the interim with plans to build conversion plants across the country.