* Energy Dept has refused to identify contractor for report
* NERA model assesses impact of policy on economy
* LNG export report due out by end of year
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Nov 19 A highly anticipated report
being produced for the U.S. Department of Energy on the economic
consequences of exporting U.S. natural gas, is being conducted
by NERA Economic Consulting, industry sources said.
The Energy Department has not revealed the identity of the
contractor it hired to conduct an analysis of liquefied natural
The natural gas industry has been watching for any details
of the study, expected to be released by the end of the year.
Companies have been lining up to export the surplus gas that
has flooded the U.S. market because of the shale drilling boom.
It is more than a year since the department issued its first
and so far only approval for gas exports to Cheniere's
Sabine Pass terminal.
The DOE has said it will not make any decisions on allowing
more exports until a comprehensive macroeconomic study is
completed. It has denied "outsourcing" the decision to the
authors of its external study.
Natural gas exports to all but a handful of countries with
free trade agreements require approval from the Energy
With critics raising concerns that LNG exports could raise
energy prices and harm U.S. consumers and manufacturers, the
department has been tight-lipped about the firm conducting this
study, which could have far-reaching consequences.
NERA, a unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos, said it does
not comment on the identity of its clients. The Department of
Energy declined to name the study contractor.
With more than 20 offices around the world including
Washington D.C., NERA has "pioneered in developing approaches
for introducing competition in segments such as power generation
and gas supply," its website says.
The company also touts its NewERA modeling tool, designed to
measure the impacts of energy policy on the economy as a whole,
as well impacts on energy-intensive sectors.
The external study on exports is supposed to build on an
analysis released by the Energy Information Administration at
the start of the year.
EIA's report said consumers and industrial users could spend
3 to 9 percent more each year over a 20-year period on natural
gas due to expanded exports.
Supporters of exports have disputed these findings. They say
it is unlikely that LNG shipments would reach the levels
contemplated at the high end of this report and that the report
did not fully factor in producers' ability to ramp up
development in anticipation of more exports.