* French utility giant hopes to export U.S. shale gas
* Says French fracking ban not tenable in long run
PARIS Jan 11 GDF Suez, Europe's
biggest utility, is keen to export American shale gas and hopes
the Obama administration will soon deliver licenses to export
the gas, GDF Suez chief executive Gerard Mestrallet said on
The French group has an agreement with Sempra Energy
to develop a gas liquefaction plant in Hackberry, Louisiana.
Mestrallet said that energy-intensive industries are lobbying to
block export of the abundant gas, but that energy groups like
GDF Suez are keen to export it.
"At the moment, not a cubic metre of gas is leaving the
U.S.," Mestrallet told reporters.
GDF Suez hopes that the Louisiana plant, which is expected
to start operations in 2016, will allow it to liquefy shale gas
and ship it to Asia via the Panama canal.
Mestrallet said the abundance of shale gas in the United
States was hurting the competitiveness of European companies and
that energy-intensive industries were increasingly delocalizing
to the United States.
He also said that France's ban on hydraulic fracking was
untenable in the long term.
France possibly has the biggest shale gas reserves in
Europe, but it has a ban on fracking and withdrew several
exploration permits this year.
"It is not because some consider that today it is not
possible to extract shale gas without damaging the environment,
that it will always be thus. Technology will improve, and then
we need to think again," he said.
Mestrallet said it is the government's responsibility to
boost economic growth as well as to protect the environment.
"The state will have to decide when the technology has
improved sufficiently. But let us not close the door to
progress," he said.
Mestrallet also called for a review of French mining law,
under which landowners have no ownership of any underground
resources, and said that it would be only logical that
landowners would receive at least a certain percentage of the
income from the extraction of any underground resources.
"If you'd own a beautiful property in a lovely area, the
worst that could happen to you would be the discovery of oil or
other resources. You'd get nothing but the trouble," he said.
Mestrallet said that a new system of automatic indexation of
consumer gas prices in France will be more in line with GDF
Suez's effective operating costs.
"From 2013 onwards, we can start with a price level that
corresponds to GDF Suez's real costs," Mestrallet said.
GDF Suez and other suppliers have repeatedly challenged
French caps on gas tariff increases in court.
Mestrallet also said GDF Suez still expects to meet its
targets for 2012 recurring group net profit of between 3.7
billion and 4.2 billion euros.
GDF Suez's full-year 2012 earnings will be released on