CNG Forum addresses energy issues

Jeffrey Holliday, Chesapeake Energy; Dr. Ken Morgan, TCU Energy Institute, and Jason French, Cheniere Energy, served on the CNG Panel.

Who’s in the driver’s seat when it comes to energy consumption in the United States? That was the question posed by Dr. Ken Morgan, Director of the TCU Energy Institute at the Panola College Compressed Natural Gas Forum on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

Morgan said the United States consumes 100 quadrillion BTUs of energy each year, of which 85 percent comes from fossil fuels, eight percent from nuclear and seven percent from renewable sources. He said the world consumes 500 quadrillion BTUs, and noted that China’s consumption has doubled in the past 15 years as the country’s economy improves and its people have more purchasing power for vehicles.

World usage of energy breaks down like this: 20 percent by the U.S., 17 percent by China, and 16 percent by Europe. He predicted that by the year 2030, the world will need 600 quadrillion BTUs of energy.

According to Morgan, the U.S. imports $1 billion a day of oil and uses 70 percent of it for gasoline and diesel. He discussed the U.S. debt crisis and said, “We’re buying energy with that kind of debt when we’re sitting on all the gas in the Haynesville Shale.”

Morgan said the United States has vast reserves of natural gas, including the Barnett Shale and the Haynesville Shale in Texas. He said 80 percent of the gas lies below current drilling levels.

“Shale reserves in North America are gigantic, and the controversy over drilling is not really controversial — it’s a lack of understanding,” Morgan noted.

Morgan mentioned collaborations between major industry leaders and others to produce gas in France, Italy and India, as well as several locations in the U.S.

Addressing the public concern about water usage in the drilling process, Morgan said the DFW Barnett Shale drilling activities consume less than two percent of total water use in the area.

“Waste and leaks are the real problem, accounting for 30 percent of total water use in the area,” he said, citing statistics from the Texas Water Development Board. Morgan asserts that freshwater aquifers are near the surface, while fracking happens a mile below those aquifers, and companies use seismic monitoring to ensure against contamination.

Morgan said that drilling companies have used fracking since the 1950s and 1960s. He said the Haynesville Shale gas lies at a depth of 10,000 to 11,000 feet.

Morgan said markets for natural gas are expanding.

“We are sitting on a fortune that the world absolutely wants, and we’re doing nothing. Texas spends $2.2 billion to import coal from Utah to make electricity,” he said, adding that coal is not a cost-effective fuel for electricity in Texas.

Morgan, who drives a Honda car powered by CNG, said natural gas vehicles are green, and significantly reduce harmful emissions.

The TCU Energy Institute works closely with companies and organizations in the Metroplex to educate and promote the use of CNG. Morgan said 65 percent of the vehicles at the DFW airport run on CNG, and that major auto manufacturers are building CNG vehicles now that can run exclusively on CNG or have dual fuel systems.

Morgan said when Henry Ford built his first car, the U.S. did not have an infrastructure of highways for those new vehicles. He added that the country needs the infrastructure of fueling stations to support the transition to CNG for vehicles.

“We are trying to change the energy future of this country,” he stated.

Morgan noted a complication with some alternative green energy sources such as wind and electric cars, because to manufacture the huge turbines and the batteries for the vehicles, rare earth elements are needed.

“Mining rare earth elements involves radioactive elements, and 97 percent of those rare earth elements are produced and owned by China,” he said. He added that when General Electric wanted to acquire rare earth elements, China would make the deal only if GE agreed to build its plant in that country.

Morgan closed by saying that natural gas cars are now considered the greenest vehicles on the road, and that the TCU Energy Institute is working to change the transportation future in the U.S.

Following Morgan’s keynote speech, Jeffrey Holliday, Public Affairs Manager – Haynesville Shale for Chesapeake Energy spoke about his company’s role in drilling for natural gas.

“Natural gas is the wave of the future, and is the cleanest fossil fuel out there,” Holliday said.

He added that Chesapeake is involved in fuel production, fuel delivery and working with auto manufacturers to promote the use of CNG. He said that CNG’s market price of $1.49 compares to the $3.79 for a gallon of gasoline, making economic sense for individuals and fleets. CHK uses CNG in its fleet vehicles and saves $2,772 per truck annually.

“We have enough natural gas to sell overseas,” Holliday said.

Exporting natural gas was the theme of the presentation by Jason French, Director, Government and Public Affairs for Cheniere Energy. He explained that Cheniere built  the country’s largest natural gas import facility in 2008 on the Louisiana coast, and has converted it to an export facility. A second export location is in Corpus Christi.

French discussed the process that converts natural gas to a liquid, and explained that the storage and transfer is safe because liquified natural gas is colorless, odorless, non-corrosive and non-toxic.

He said the Cheniere project will use 4,000 workers, and once operational, will reduce the U.S. trade deficit by $7 billion.

A question and answer session followed the presentations, and students inquired about internship and career opportunities. Holliday noted that the industry is cyclical, and that people should be willing to relocate to other areas as the need arises.

At the conclusion of the Forum, attendees were able to view the three CNG vehicles on site, including a pickup, an SUV and a Honda car.

See more photos at the Panola College CNG Forum Photo Gallery. Channel 3, KTBS TV, covered the event – Future of Energy Independence.

For more information about CNG, go to the TCU Energy Institute, Chesapeake Energy or Cheniere Energy.