Lessons From IHS CERAWeek: What We Heard on Conference's Day 3

  • Cheniere makes history; U.S. less thirsty for foreign energy
  • Energy's new challenge; Mexico willing to meet; `pure hell'

Natural gas and the environment took center stage Wednesday at IHS CERAWeek, the conference in Houston that brings together 2,800 executives, investors and researchers to discuss the future of energy. Here’s what we heard:

On the Water

Conference organizers stumbled into a lovely bit of serendipity as it booked appearances by Cheniere Energy Inc. on the day the company exported its first shipment of liquefied natural gas from its terminal in Louisiana. "It’s the most important day in the energy business for 2016," said Meg Gentle, the company’s president of marketing.

In and Out

While the news of the day had to do with exports, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said that the fact that the U.S. isn’t importing as much energy anymore is the real difference maker. "On oil, even with no exports, we had a profound impact on the global market because it’s a global price," he said. "In gas, it’s not only a question of exporting. It is also a question of not having imported."

A New Challenge

If low oil and gas prices weren’t challenging enough for the industry, the Environmental Protection Agency gave it something else to worry about Wednesday. The agency is devising regulations for the methane leaking from oil and natural gas operations that “really are going to be challenging,” according to EPA chief Gina McCarthy. The regulations should be issued in the spring or early summer.

Joining the Party

Saudi Arabia may have found a new guest for its production freeze party. Mexican Energy Minister Pedro Joaquin Coldwell said he would participate in a meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC producers it it was invited. Saudi Arabia oil minister Ali al-Naimi, who met with Coldwell yesterday, is trying to get more producers to join it and Russia in agreeing to freeze output at January levels.

The Seventh Circle

Jim Teague doesn’t get it when people describe the current energy rout as part of a price cycle. The chief executive officer of pipeline giant Enterprise Products Partners LP has a different word for it: "Some people call it a cycle," he said. "I call it pure hell."

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