(Adds more detail, additional comments from Moniz)
By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON, April 25 The crisis in Ukraine and
Russia played an "elevated" role in the most recent approval of
a U.S. liquefied natural gas export project, and geopolitics
will continue to influence decisions on how much LNG to export,
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said on Friday.
Moniz made the remarks at the annual conference of the U.S.
Export-Import Bank in Washington, on a panel with White House
advisor John Podesta, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The energy secretary said the escalating crisis was a key
factor behind the Energy Department's approval last month of
exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from a plant to be built
in Oregon, the second such authorization this year.
The gap between the Oregon project approval and the previous
one - Sempra's Cameron plant in Louisiana - was largely
in line with the average interval of about eight weeks that has
prevailed since Washington resumed issuing LNG export permits
But Moniz suggested that the brewing geopolitical crisis in
Europe will play a direct role in future approvals, which some
companies hope could speed up the process.
While the shipments from last month's Jordan Cove project in
Oregon would not be directed at Europe, analysts and industry
groups said any gas exports from the United States could help
increase flexibility in gas markets.
The next project in line for approval is also in Oregon by
Leucadia National Corp.
Moniz said the Ukraine-Russia crisis will weigh heavily at
the upcoming G7 group of leading industrialised economies
meeting of energy ministers to take place May 5-6 in Rome.
U.K. Energy Secretary Ed Davey said Britain would use that
meeting to promote a global plan for developing alternative
energy sources and supply networks to try to curb Russia's
ability to wield its gas reserves as a geopolitical tool.
The G7 wants to prioritize energy security after Russia's
annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea, and fears Moscow
could cut off supplies to Ukraine if the dispute deepens.
Russia supplies around a third of Europe's gas, some 40
percent of which it ships through Ukraine.
While UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been calling for
more fracking in Europe to provide a counterweight to the
continent's reliance on Russia for natural gas, some countries
like France and Bulgaria ban the practice.
Moniz told the audience at the Ex-Im Bank conference that
this will be a central talking point at the G7 meeting.
"I've been having phone conversations and I would say
cautiously there may be an openness to re-examining the fracking
issue," he said.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; editing by Gunna Dickson)