Boundless Natural Gas, Boundless Opportunities: Interview With EIA Chief

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has predicted that natural gas production in the U.S. will continue to grow at an impressive pace. Right now, output is close to 70 billion cubic feet a day and is expected to reach over 100 billion cubic feet per day by 2040. The trend is likely to continue without hitting a geologic “peak,” and along with this trend will come new marketing opportunities for America. In an exclusive interview with Oilprice.com, EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski discusses the following.

  • What’s at stake in lifting the U.S. crude export ban
  • Whether lifting the ban is inevitable
  • Why energy-related CO2 emissions will likely climb this year
  • What we can expect from U.S. coal output through 2014
  • Why U.S. natural gas production will continue to grow strongly
  • Where we can expect (unexpectedly) new production to come from
  • Why Alaska just might surprise us
  • Where the biggest new shale opportunities lie
  • How production increases might come from ‘non-shale’ formations
  • The potential for Colombian shale
  • What to expect from Mexico’s reforms
  • What the Panama Canal expansion really means
  • Why we will see new marketing opportunities for the U.S.

Interview by James Stafford of Oilprice.com.

Oilprice.com: U.S. mainstream media are heralding the debate over lifting the U.S. crude oil export ban as potentially one of the most critical for this year. While most agree this is not likely to happen anytime soon, is it an eventuality?

Adam Sieminski: When I first took office at the EIA, I said that light sweet crude oil production was growing very rapidly, and that it would ultimately have a number of impacts on the energy infrastructure in the U.S. For instance, that we would see changes in things like movement of oil by rail. We would see changes in refinery configurations designed to deal with light sweet crude. The Gulf Coast refineries in the U.S. over the past decade were upgraded to run heavy sour imports, and so there are issues with the ability of refineries in the U.S. to handle rapid increases in light sweet crude oil production.

I noted at the time that, at some point, policymakers were going to be confronted with all of these changes resulting from the enormous shift in thinking about U.S. production growth. Five or 10 years ago, everybody thought that U.S. oil production would just go down and demand would always go up. Now we have in the EIA’s forecast over the next five years very strong growth in crude oil production and weak growth — if not negative trends — going on in gasoline and liquid fuels demand.  This creates an interesting atmosphere.

Is lifting the crude export ban inevitable? I’m not sure that anything is inevitable. Certainly, what I’ve learned in the last five years is that the inevitable declines in production and growth in demand didn’t come true.

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