* Chesapeake CEO says hopes US will not export LNG
* McClendon would rather use natgas for transportation
* Chesapeake has supply agreement to export natgas abroad
By Edward McAllister
NEW YORK, Nov 16 (Reuters) - The head of Chesapeake Energy , one of the biggest U.S. natural gas drillers, does not want the country to ship its huge gas reserves overseas, despite agreeing to supply fuel for a proposed export project.
Record U.S. natural gas production has sparked a debate about whether the resource should be used more at home, potentially for wider use in transportation, or shipped abroad to fetch higher prices on the global market.
“I want the right to export natural gas, but I am really hopeful that we never do,” said Chesapeake chief executive Aubrey McClendon during a panel discussion on natural gas vehicles in New York on Wednesday.
A string of rival liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects have been proposed in the United States over the past year as unconventional gas production has left the country with a century’s worth of cheap supply, evaporating import needs and thinning producers’ profit margins.
Together, the proposed export plants could export the equivalent of more than 10 percent of U.S. gas needs by the end of the decade.
Chesapeake has pledged to supply U.S.-produced gas for the most advanced U.S. project at Sabine Pass in Louisiana, run by Cheniere Energy , which could be online by 2015, pending regulatory approval. Last month Cheniere signed an agreement with LNG shipper BG Group to supply U.S. shale gas to the world.
“When we first announced the Sabine Pass Liquefaction project, Chesapeake stated publicly that they would provide half a billion cubic feet per day of gas to the Sabine Pass facility,” a Cheniere spokeswoman said.
Still, McClendon hopes that there will be enough demand at home for that not to be necessary.
“An LNG export facility wouldn’t be ready for another four years or so,” McClendon said. “I really hope in the next four years that we embrace natural gas for transportation so we don’t need to export it outside the country.”
Despite massive reserves and nascent efforts, the United States is yet to make widespread progress to turn diesel and gasoline engines over to natural gas.
Much depends on legislation in Washington. There is some optimism surrounding the Nat Gas Act, introduced in the Senate on Tuesday, which provides tax incentives to buy natural gas engines, though past efforts of this kind have been slowed and halted by political wrangling.
In the meantime, McClendon is hedging his bets.
“If for some reason this country refuses to use this wonderful fuel...I have to put my gas up for sale to somebody,” he said.