April 21, 2010
Sheridan Titman, professor of finance at McCombs and executive director of the Energy Management and Innovation Center, moderated "Recent Developments in the Natural Gas Market" at the Spring 2010 Energy Forum earlier this month. Panelists included:
- Sean Kolassa, Director, Pipeline Planning, El Paso Corporation
- Greg Trimble, Senior Director, Global Energy Development, Walmart
- Maryam Sabbaghian, Manager, Policy and Strategic Planning, ConocoPhillips
- Sampat Prakash, Consulting Practice Leader, U.S. Oil and Gas, Deloitte
- Tadeusz Patzek, Department Chair, Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin
Here are just a few soundbites from this distinguished panel:
- Patzek (after pointing out that, currently, fossil fuels run 85% of the U.S. economy directly and much of the remainder indirectly), "Natural gas is the only large-scale, clean, domestic fossil fuel in the U.S. portfolio."
- Prakash (regarding the potential of natural gas vehicle use), "Where it tends to work, and where it's been demonstrated in other countries, is in densely populated areas with fleets, particularly metro transport and shuttle buses. So, that's perfectly viable. Where it becomes difficult is when you take a continent or country the size of ours, and try to put out infrastructure there and that's a little bit of a challenge."
- Trimble (explaining the pros and cons of natural gas from a major consumer standpoint), "We consume about 1/2 of 1% of all the electricity produced in the U.S. So, it's a good chunk, and so as natural gas might translate into electricity generation, certainly we'd be a part of that. But I think, though, what you are asking is what other ways might we be consuming natural gas? There are at least two things that I'm aware of that we are doing. We're testing fuel cells and so far that has been successful; we've got two sites installed, producing about 2/3 to 3/4 of supercenters' electricity requirements. The kicker on that, though, is to make it pencil, you have to take advantage of the utility incentives or the federal tax breaks. And, in order to do that you have to have an element of renewable attached to it. Basically, you have to have a biogas instead of straight-up natural gas at this point to make them work from a finance perspective...The other thing we are testing is natural-gas fueled transportation in our trucks..."
- Kolassa (regarding how the bottleneck in the legislature is causing firms who build pipelines and infrastructure to wait-and-see): "It's really causing the end users to wait. The power generation utilities and the other players in that space, they've got to wait to see what happens. And each one and each region is different. As you look at how much coal they may have in their total generating fuel mix, specifically as you trend towards the Southeast, it's a much more significant piece of their overall generation portfolio. So as we see things move forward, you could have a very large infrastructure requirement in the southeastern United States associated with that legislation if they move away from coal and into natural gas."
- Sabbaghian: "This shale gas phenomenon is a game changer. It changes not just supply and demand dynamics, it's also potentially a contributor to changing volatility."