* 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 gas exports.
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 Department.
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.