One thing is certain about my trips to Russia - the time schedule is always off.
But I can't complain; the weeklong visit provided many benefits.
As I told you two weeks ago the primary purpose of my trip was to evaluate natural gas projects in northern Russia. It's becoming increasingly necessary to estimate global-wide gas prospects in order to determine effective price levels.
That's because the age of "spot" market prices in the gas sector is rapidly approaching.
And it's about to change the way the markets operate for everyone involved.
On the SpotSpot markets allow for a very short-term exchange of volume (usually 72 hours) and serve to undergird longer-term contract pricing.
The spot markets tend to offset longer contract terms by providing volume at what is usually a discount to the contracts, which are more properly futures contracts on natural gas.
However, natural gas has not had featured spot sales except in those areas that serve as major centers for pipeline interchange. Those areas then become provisional benchmarks for wider markets.
This is different than crude oil, which can be moved by tankers to virtually anywhere there is a decent port, allowing the establishment of local spot markets. Gas, on the other hand, has been limited by how far pipelines extend.
But the acceleration of liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade - in which gas is cooled to a liquid state, transported by tanker, and then "regasified" on the other end - has altered the picture.
Indeed, with more than 90 new terminals set to open, under construction, or in the final stages of approval worldwide, LNG is one of the most decisive changes to hit the energy sector in decades.
LNG imports are essential to meet energy needs in parts of the world where there's little domestic supply. Exporting LNG also provides a new outlet in those regions where new unconventional gas volume strains local demand and threatens adequate price levels for producers.
This latter consideration affects all major shale gas production basins in North America, from the Horn River and Montney in Western Canada to the Marcellus, Barnett, and Fayetteville in the United States.
And, as I have noted on several occasions, the rise of LNG trade can serve as a major excess production drain off for the United States.
What LNG does not do, however, is address a growing global concern.
See, it is one thing to provide an end market for additional production. It is quite another to integrate the production assets into the equation.
Let me explain.