A Biden administration pause on approvals for pending and future applications to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from new projects in the United States is the latest federal hit to the chin of Wyoming’s oil and gas industry.
The industry also has been scratching its head over tepid auctions to lease federal land with oil and gas deposits planned for later in the year because those don’t address what it says is the real demand, thus limiting potential production and sales.
On the LNG front, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming has signed on with other energy interests to protest President Joe Biden’s indefinite moratorium on LNG export approval process, which was announced Friday.
“Any action to halt U.S. LNG export approvals would be a major mistake that puts American jobs at risk while undermining global climate goals,” the group wrote in a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
An analysis of the president’s pledge to send LNG to energy-starved Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 could jeopardize $63 billion in capital expenditures in the U.S., and 71,500 jobs supported annually from 2025 through 2030, the letter states.
“If you look at all of the statements from members of the administration to eliminate oil and gas development on federal lands, and then Biden saying last week that he plans to shut down LNG export terminals, it all just shuts off another avenue for the oil and gas industry,” said Ryan McConnaughey, vice president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming.
Wyoming Cut Off
While most LNG export facilities dot the Gulf Coast region, there are none along the West Coast where Wyoming gas producers would benefit from exports, especially to allies in Asia, MacConnaughey said.
The LNG squeeze is the latest energy policy issue to give Wyoming’s oil and gas drilling industry heartburn.
Earlier this month, the Bureau of Land Management announced plans to auction oil and gas leases that fell short of expectations of industry forecasts.
While there are more than 1 million acres of federal land pending for auction that industry wants to drill on, and another 1 million that has been deferred with no clear path forward to lease, BLM’s Wyoming office has announced plans to move forward on lease sales that cover a little over 11,250 acres on one auction and 239 acres on a second. That represents 0.01% of the potential land that could be available for leasing.
That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what oil and gas companies want.
“Offering more acres in high-potential areas would certainly result in higher interest,” McConnaughey said.
Since BLM resumed oil and gas lease auctions in the second half of last year following a BLM moratorium that began in 2021, oil and gas interests have complained that the state’s rich energy properties are being held back.
BLM Defends Policy
James Fisher, a BLM spokesman with BLM’s Wyoming office, deflected criticism from the oil and gas industry that claims BLM is “stifling the amount of land out” for leasing.
“We go through a thorough review to determine what the industry’s interest is in making nominations” for what land they want to drill on, Fisher said.
Four quarterly auctions are planned this year that represent a fraction of lease sales offered during former President Donald Trump’s administration. For instance, the leases offered this year total about 2% of one auction for more than 476,000 acres when Trump was in office.
This year’s lease sales in Wyoming are tentatively scheduled for March 1, July 1 and Sept. 2. A fourth quarter sale hasn’t yet been determined, Fisher said.
Quarterly auctions resumed last year after a federal court ordered BLM to resume lease sales after Biden halted them when he took office.
“Given the fact that the BLM’s decision-making process into when, where and how many parcels are offered is completely opaque, there is no ability to ascertain the BLM’s reasoning for offering parcels or not,” McConnaughey said.
During comment periods this month to express interest on what BLM land the industry wants to drill in future oil and gas competitive lease sales, McConnaughey said that he believes BLM may only want to offer “valueless parcels by picking and choosing more marginal acreage to lease while leaving out those that would be most desirable – all based on the whims of the administration.”
He also noted that the BLM continues to omit leases that would fill in “donut-holes” in otherwise leased fields making development difficult or impossible.
“Because of this, you can’t efficiently drill through that area because the middle piece (donut hole) is not leased out,” McConnaughey said.
Pat Maio can be reached at email@example.com.