* Apache’s western Canada project to feed natgas to Asia
* Schlumberger sees more bullish growth in natgas demand
* Valero sees more fuel exports to Latin America as result
By Braden Reddall and Anna Driver
NEW ORLEANS, March 28 (Reuters) - Leading energy companies expect the nuclear disaster in Japan to underpin a shift toward the increased use of natural gas worldwide, executives said at a U.S. industry conference on Monday.
That would work well with the plans of U.S. producer Apache Corp (APA.N), which with partners aims to build an export terminal for liquefied natural gas in western Canada to serve Asian customers.
“That gas becomes more interesting to the market than it probably was three months ago,” Steve Farris, Apache’s chief executive, told the Howard Weil Energy Conference in New Orleans.
Apache is advancing plans to open the Kitimat LNG terminal in Canada, where it holds shale gas acreage. [ID:nN28190170]
The nuclear disaster gripping Japan could have long-term implications for all gas producers if Japan backed away from nuclear power. Already, official industry projections are for natural gas demand to grow by about 1.5 percent annually through 2035.
Andrew Gould, CEO of leading oilfield services company Schlumberger Ltd (SLB.N), said other forecasts are even more bullish, projecting annual growth rates of about 2 percent.
“A reassessment of the energy mix following the nuclear accident in Japan is likely to confirm higher demand growth for natural gas,” Gould said in his presentation at the conference.
The crisis is already shaking up Japan’s LNG trade. Tokyo Gas Co (9531.T), Japan’s biggest city gas supplier, said on Monday it had diverted an unspecified volume of LNG to Tokyo Electric Power Co (9501.T) to make up for output lost from two nuclear plants after this month’s huge quake. [ID:nL3E7ES03H]
While TEPCO may have spare fuel supplies now, as some of its thermal plants remain shut following the quake, it has said it will need more fuel, mainly LNG, for the summer to maximize thermal power production. [ID:nL3E7EP0BA]
The magnitude 9.0 quake on March 11 forced the closure of 23 percent of its total power sources, including hydro plants.
The impact on fuel markets has been felt in pockets elsewhere, ranging from a boost to LNG stocks in Britain[ID:nLDE72R0HS] to trans-Pacific trade.
Bill Klesse, CEO of U.S. refiner Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N), said at the conference that his company may benefit from higher exports to Latin America, which is an importer of Japanese fuel products, as Japan recovers from the earthquake and tsunami. (Reporting by Braden Reddall, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)