US shale glut changes exports game

Origin Energy managing director Grant King has warned that the global fall-out from the US shale oil and gas revolution will increase pressure on Australian coal exporters.

Origin Energy managing director Grant King has warned that the global fall-out from the US shale oil and gas revolution will increase pressure on Australian coal exporters.

The glut of US gas is threatening to choke off further expansion of the local gas export sector, beyond what is already under construction.

Cheap gas in the US is forcing more US coal into export markets - in both Europe and Asia - which has cut across export growth prospects for much of the local coal industry, Mr King told a conference in Sydney on Friday.

Developers of export gas projects in Queensland, for example, were already beneficiaries of the changes unfolding, with an increase in labour availability as coal miners retrench staff and contractors.

The shale revolution has catapulted the US to a cheap manufacturing centre, with "implications for Europe", which is increasingly uncompetitive especially with its high energy prices.

In the Australian coal industry, a number of planned expansion projects and proposed new mines are now not expected to proceed.

The withdrawal of capital from the coal projects has resulted in "much more labour available" for the export gas projects being developed in Queensland.

Mr King said Europe was "struggling with the high level of subsidies required" to sustain its renewables energy sector, in areas such as wind and solar energy.

"Spain is largely bankrupt due to subsidies" on renewable energy, he said.

"Europe's economic circumstances are increasingly uncompetitive. Subsidies will be withdrawn," he said, arguing that the "global consensus" in favour of a price on carbon no longer existed.

Despite criticism over the high cost of developing export gas projects in Australia, Mr King claimed the projects now being planned in the US would be only slightly less expensive, although the US did have the advantage of using existing infrastructure, which needs to be reconfigured from, for example, import to export terminals.

With the US benefiting from falling energy prices, electricity prices in Australia will rise further unless renewables energy schemes are revised, Mr King said.

The high cost of the household solar subsidy in Australia, which the Queensland Competition Authority estimated at $200 a household a year will "need to be reversed ... inevitably".

US coal export capacity could more than double to around 400 million tonnes by the end of the decade, with most of that growth aimed at the Asian market.

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