Recently two of the world's largest energy companies announced they were joining to develop a record-breaking liquefied natural gas (LNG) project - one that could deliver huge profits for the companies and investors.
Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) and BHP Billiton (NYSE ADR: BHP) announced earlier this month they were forming a joint venture to build the biggest floating LNG, or FLNG, facility ever. It'll be located off the northwestern shore of Australia.
FLNG is the industry's answer to accessing supplying much needed LNG to energy-hungry Asia, but trying to avoid the increasing costs of onshore plants in Australia.
An increasingly number of companies plan to invest in FLNG over the next few years.
Energy research firm Douglas-Westwood recently reported that global spending on FLNG projects will reach $47.4 billion between 2013 and 2019. About $28 billion will go to FLNG liquefaction spending, and $19 billion on import terminals.
"For more than 30 years FLNG export has been an ambition of the offshore industry, but it is now well on the way to reality," said report author Murray Dormer.
Why Britain is Looking to U.S. for 20 Years' Worth of LNG
With its domestic natural gas reserves nearly depleted, the U.K. is turning to a U.S. company to supply enough liquefied natural gas (LNG) to provide energy to nearly 2 million British homes for 20 years.
The deal has big implications for companies involved in the flourishing U.S. shale gas industry, in which gas is extracted through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
You see, fracking has led to an abundance of natural gas and will go a long way toward making the U.S. a net exporter of energy instead of a net importer in the coming years.
That, of course, will be a big boon to natural gas companies that export LNG.
Why Japan's Desperately Seeking U.S. LNG
The Fukushima nuclear disaster has had a dramatic impact on the country's nuclear industry - and that's opened the door for major developments for liquefied natural gas (LNG).
You see, two years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, only a few of its more than 50 nuclear power plants have been restarted.
Before the nuclear disaster, Japan had relied on nuclear energy for 30% of the country's electrical power and had planned to increase that to 40%.
Now, the lack of nuclear power has left a big gap between demand for energy and supply.
That's why Japan has sharply increased its imports of liquefied natural gas. In fact, it's now the world's largest buyer of LNG.
In 2012, Japan imported a record 87.31 million tons of LNG, an increase of 11.2% from 2011. It imported LNG from sources including Qatar, Russia, Australia and Indonesia.
The LNG industry has reaped huge gains from Japan's surge in LNG use - and the industry stands to gain much more in coming years.
Why This Chinese Company Is Investing in U.S. LNG
A private energy company based in China is reportedly investing in the construction of a network of liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling stations in the United States.
According to a Reuters report, ENN Group Co. Ltd. is teaming with a small U.S.-based company, and the partnership plans to open 50 to 60 LNG fueling stations this year. LNG stations cost an average about $1 million each to build, industry experts say.
ENN has already built a number of natural gas fueling stations in China, which is much further along in use of LNG for heavy trucks than the United States.
LNG's been promoted by investors such as T. Boone Pickens and natural gas producers including Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) as a cheaper, cleaner fuel for long-haul trucks.
Now more natural gas companies are teaming up to provide LNG, which means more investment opportunities for energy investors.
Natural Gas Companies: Shell's Huge LNG Win
Shell will buy a portion of Repsol's LNG assets for $4.4 billion in cash and $2.3 billion in financial leases and assumed debt - more than double pre-sale estimates, according to Bernstein Research.
Tuesday's deal underscores the looming importance of LNG to natural gas companies and the global energy market.
"LNG overcomes the primary problem faced by natural gas users," explained Money Morning's Global Energy Strategist Dr. Kent Moors earlier this year. "Available supply is traditionally limited to where pipelines are running. LNG, on the other hand, cools gas to a liquid, allowing it to be transported by tankers almost anywhere by water, regasified at an import terminal, and then injected into the local pipeline network."
This opportunity means huge profits for companies - and investors - who get ahead in the LNG market.
Shell's Big LNG Win
Shell believes global consumption of LNG will double from now until 2025. Earlier this year, Shell's ECO Peter Voser said he expects gas to play a significant role over the next 40 years, with much greater growth rates than oil.
Voser said in November 2012 that Shell plans to invest $20 billion in natural gas products globally over the next few years.
One of the reasons Shell pursued this current deal was to get Repsol's stakes in a major LNG project in Trinidad and Tobago, in addition to a small project off coastal Peru. Shell previously had no presence in these emerging regions.
Operating in these regions gives Shell the ability to provide gas to Latin America, and use its Nigerian gas operations to service Asia. That'll save the company shipping costs and boost profit margins.
"This is a perfect complement to what we have. We get a West Atlantic position and an East Pacific position. These were blind spots," Maarten Wetselaar, Shell's executive vice president told The New York Times.
The deal comes with a fleet of specialized LNG carrier ships and will add 30% to Shell's LNG supplies, according to The New York Times.
Macquarie Securities estimated Shell will now have 6.6 million tons of LNG to trade, or about 20% of its total volume.
Why Natural Gas Companies are Chasing LNG
Natural Gas Companies: Exporters Stymied by Permit Delays
Just days after Forbesexplained how American natural gas exports will positively change the world, the U.S. Energy Department released news that could delay natural gas companies seeking to export the fuel.
The DOE announced it will temporarily halt granting new licenses for companies to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) until an economic study is completed later this fall.
Despite finishing in January the first part of a critical study on the impact of LNG exports on U.S. energy production, prices, and consumption, the rest remains incomplete. Until this section is finished and evaluated by members of Congress and executive officials, the DOE will also suspend assessments of proposed export sites.
"The second part of the study, which will assess the broader economic effects of increased natural gas exports, is ongoing," Energy Department spokesman William Gibbons wrote in a release Wednesday. "We expect to be able to release the comprehensive study results late this summer."
The DOE has delayed permits and assessments of proposed sites mainly due to worries from Congressional members. Congress remains concerned about the long-term U.S. energy security and the potential that natural gas prices could increase dramatically as exports begin.
A Trillion Reasons to Bet Big on LNG
If you think oil prices are too high now - at $100 a barrel - it's time to adjust your thinking.
Truth be told, I don't think we'll see sub-$100-a-barrel oil ever again.
That's not great news for U.S. consumers. But it could be great news for U.S. investors, because this new era of always-high oil prices is going to open the door for liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Investors who accept this new oil-price reality - and position themselves accordingly - can settle back and enjoy the ride: As oil prices soar, expect LNG prices to zoom in tandem.
To find out how to profit from LNG, please read on...
LNG Is the Future of Energy – And North America is the "New Saudi Arabia"
Sometimes the most important impact on a raw material commodity comes less from its actual extraction and more from how product is introduced into new markets.
Indeed, that is becoming the next major development in North American natural gas. The expansion in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports may well hold the key to turning a glut into advancing profit.
To find out more about the looming profit opportunities in LNG, read on...