With the credentials and opportunities of the region firmly established earlier in the day, the afternoon session of the North America Industrial Gas Conference 2012 has now shed the spotlight on natural gas.

The shale gas glut and the potential boom in the LNG industry is cited as one of the key growth drivers for the North American gas and equipment business in the next decade.

With a view to 2020, it is expected that this boom in LNG trade and distribution will reap considerable reward for the gases industry, as the existing technologies and expertise that the industry boasts in cryogenics is utilised to realise the potential. From cryogenic storage tanks to pumping skids and LNG bunkering solutions, the projected demand seems almost limitless.

With this in mind, following a refreshing poolside lunch courtesy of Cryostar, day one of the conference continued with an exploration of the opportunities in natural gas.

Croystar’s very own Samuel Zouaghi began with an insightful presentation which discussed the fundamentals of LNG production, small-scale LNG operations and LNG and North America.

“You need pumps at the back of your trucks to transport your LNG, just the same as you need pumps at the back of your trucks to transport oxygen”

After explaining forecasts that LNG will rise by a factor of five between 2000 and 2025, to 500 million tons per year in 2025, and how natural gas production is expected to increase by 30% by 2025, Zouaghi spoke of the significance of this for the gases industry.

“LNG is transported in very similar methods to industrial gas, the synergies are there,” he explained. “You need pumps at the back of your trucks to transport your LNG, just the same as you need pumps at the back of your trucks to transport oxygen, for example.”

“The LNG industry will emerge as a major alternative to fuel, if we can eliminate and overcome many of the fences that stand in the way.”

Game changer

Garrett Gee, Director of PWc Global Chemical Advisories Team, affirmed the confidence held in both shale gas and LNG as he followed Zouaghi to the stage.

Gee spoke with both a verve and a confidence in the future for LNG – and what effect this will have on industry in North America, not least with a resurgence in US manufacturing.

“It’s a real pleasure to be here today to share with you our latest body of research,” he opened. “The message here is really, looking at the trends in energy and oil, look at gas – what we’re seeing is a shift in thought process in many companies and countries as to how they are going to source their energy going forward.”

“Today we are using 1.5 times the level of global resources that we did in 1976. We have to come up with a sustainable solution.”

“So when we’re looking at natural gas and shale, how can we tap into this resource in an effective way? The really unique part about North America’s shale gas is, there are numerous basins, so it seems as though natural gas in North America is here to stay. But how are we going to get it? Who is going to get it? And what’s going to be the impact on export?”

“When you look at North America today,” he continued, “we’re very blessed to have a good infrastructure. And we’re starting to see the import value of natural gas decline and the export value increase.”

“North America, on the petrochemical side, is one of the largest users of natural gas – that cost level has sparked a huge amount of investment upstream and downstream in petrochemicals. That’s a game changer globally”

With delegates left in no doubt about the potential of LNG, Gee turned to the effects of this on industry, explaining how US natural gas production and capital requirements are being made to meet demand and how the US natural gas value chain is enabling a domestic manufacturing resurgence.

“We’re starting to see a resurgence of manufacturers coming back to America, for various reasons,” he said. “Shale gas today is becoming very economical. The economics in shale gas production are very favourable. When you take the natural gas prices today, and you look at where natural gas is falling from a high in 2006, North America is now on a par with Saudi Arabia in terms of total cost of manufacturing.”

“North America, on the petrochemical side, is one of the largest users of natural gas – that cost level has sparked a huge amount of investment upstream and downstream in petrochemicals. That is a game changer globally.”

Looking ahead, he added, “One of the things that we believe is going to happen, with a view to 2020, is the global transport patterns are going to change. The global trade balance of LNG is going to shift over the next couple of years.”

Nopetro’s Jorge Herrera then took over, to discuss the Natural Gas Trends in the Transportation Sector and where this is going with respect to CNG and LNG.

Nopetro designs finances, builds, operates, maintains and supplies CNG and LNG fuelling stations and Herrera commented that natural gas trends in transportation “couldn’t be more relevant today.”

Day two of the conference continues tomorrow, exploring the critical success factors in the North America gases industry and with a particularly pertinent presentation from MATHESON’s Phil Kornbluth, who will discuss the approaching Helium Cliff.

With day one drawing to a close, promotional booth time is now underway and delegates will this evening be treated to a Gala Dinner event sponsored by Weldcoa.

Follow all the latest news, views and updates from the North American Industrial Gas Conference 2012 online, at www.gasworld.com.