March 23, 2012 / 7:53 PM / 8 years ago

US DOE delays analysis, decisions on LNG exports

* Debate grows on how much LNG US should export
    * Analysis on LNG exports had been expected this month
    * Delay pushes back 7 applications for LNG exports

    By Timothy Gardner	
    WASHINGTON, March 23 (Reuters) - The Energy Department
is delaying the release of a study on liquefied natural gas
exports until late summer, which will push  back its decisions
on about seven applications to export the fuel, a spokeswoman
said on Friday. 	
    The Obama Administration has been awaiting for the report so
it can have an in-depth analysis on how to proceed on demands by
energy companies to export natural gas as prices fall to 10-year
lows on a widening glut of the resource.	
    The delay is due to a third-party contractor needing more
time to go through its models on the impact of exporting natural
 gas would have on the U.S. economy, the DOE spokeswoman said. 	
    "Once we have those results we will take the time to review
them and develop the path forward," she said, adding there was
no timeline for the decisions.	
    As energy companies unlock vast new U.S. natural gas
supplies with techniques including hydraulic fracturing, a
debate has grown on the merits of exporting the bounty. Exports
could bring money into the economy and create new jobs, but some
lawmakers worry exports could spike the price of fuel for U.S.
homeowners and businesses. 	
    Some chemical and other companies have begun to relocate to
the United States on the promise of low natural gas prices, a
trend the lawmakers say could slow if fuel prices rise
dramatically.	
    The DOE is allowed to quickly approve applications to export
gas to South Korea, Chile and more than a dozen other countries
that have free-trade agreements with the United States.	
     The U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement took effect on
March 15, though the political opposition in Seoul has vowed to
renegotiate it if they win elections this year. 	
    But applications for exports to countries that do not have
free trade agreements with Washington require a more thorough
process.	
    The DOE has approved one export application from Cheniere
Energy for its Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana. About
seven other companies including Southern, BG, and
Sempra have also requested permission to export to
countries without free trade agreements.  	
    The spokeswoman said the DOE would open up a public comment
period after it releases the analysis but could not say how long
that would take.	
	
 (Reporting By Timothy Gardner)
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