Shell’s US chief sees Obama approving ‘phased’ natural-gas exports

Marvin Odum, the head of Royal Dutch Shell’s U.S. arm, predicts the federal government will provide a green light for expanded exports of natural gas.

Odum, the president of Shell Oil Co., said he envisions “phased” approvals.

“The expectation I would try and lead people to is, this is going to happen in a phased manner. My expectation is we will get some permits approved for some degree of export relatively soon,” Odum said in interview broadcast Sunday on Platts Energy Week TV.

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Odum envisions that more exports will be approved as the U.S. gas production boom continues, which will provide a “stronger belief in the resilience and the duration of these resources.”

The Energy Department (DOE) is weighing 15 politically controversial applications to export over 21 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas per day to nations that don't have free-trade agreements with the U.S.

A range of companies are seeking to export gas from the Gulf Coast, Oregon, Maryland and elsewhere.

Export advocates scored a win last week with the December 5 release of a DOE-commissioned report that called gas exports a net economic benefit to the United States.

The study will be factored into DOE’s review of the applications.

But the proposals face opposition – or at least skepticism – from some lawmakers, including incoming Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Manufacturers that rely on the fuel and fear price increases are also pushing back.

In other comments, Odum said there’s concern within the industry about the Obama administration erecting new barriers to domestic oil-and-gas drilling, but added that his company has been able to expand U.S. operations.

“There’s a lot of talk about a lot of barriers and a lot of negative things coming into place. I feel that tension and I am part of those conversations in some cases,” Odum said.

“At the same time, we as a company have never been busier developing in the Gulf of Mexico. We are running more rigs in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico now than we ever have before,” he said.

The company’s onshore business is also on the “incline,” Odum added.