Speaker: Natural gas is future of energy industry

MORGAN CITY, La. — North America could be energy independent by the end of the decade if the continent uses more natural gas in areas such as transportation, said Charles Goodson, chairman, CEO and president of PetroQuest Energy Inc. based in Lafayette.

Goodson was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s meeting of the Atchafalaya Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City.

“What it does is, it allows manufacturing over the next 50 years to reinvigorate itself, and North America will be a self-sufficient, basically, three countries,” he said.

A recent study by the National Association of Manufacturers forecasts that an additional one million U.S. jobs in manufacturing by 2025 will be supplied by the use of natural gas, he said.

The U.S. actually has had an oversupply of natural gas since 2008 or 2009, he said. Once the price of natural gas consistently stays at about $4 per thousand cubic feet, drilling will probably start to pick up again, Goodson said. “I think you’re going to see a major change in the shelf of the Gulf of Mexico,” he said. “If we can kind of get the supply and demand back into sync, and you see that price up around $4 on an average, you’re going to see a whole different world out there.”

No money from the Troubled Assets Relief Program was used to convert cars to natural gas, he said, and the amount of cars running on natural gas is extremely small. “Only one-tenth of one percent of our vehicles in this country run off natural gas … that’s sad, and really there’s not a big push for it.” He said the federal government needs to get behind converting vehicles to natural gas.

The 18-wheeler industry, however, is moving toward using natural gas for fuel, he said.

“There’ll be a filling station every 200 miles probably in the next 12 months where 18-wheelers can convert over,” he said. In the 18-wheeler market, the consumer dictates the market unlike the general car market because of the larger number of trucks owned by individual entities, he said.

His company has tried to balance it by having wells of natural gas and natural gas liquids on the Gulf Coast and Gulf of Mexico, East Texas, horizontal Cotton Valley wells in the Carthage field in East Texas and the shale operations in Oklahoma.

PetroQuest is producing natural gas liquids, he said.

One of the company’s most productive natural gas and natural gas liquid producing sites, called La Cantera, is in Vermilion Parish on 1,600 acres of land. The company has drilled three wells He said they have made “the biggest discovery in our corporate history and probably the largest discovery in south Louisiana in the last 10 years just west of here.”

The drilling industry will be “far better off” if companies produce oil and natural gas in the U.S. in the deep water offshore, on the shelf and south Louisiana instead of relying on the Middle East, he said.

“A billion people in China are going to be looking for oil and gas, and we’ll basically be able to export in the not too distant future natural gas and probably oil. And we can flip this whole thing around,” Goodson said.

Still, the growth of oil and natural gas production in the U.S. has reduced the country’s foreign dependence on oil, he said. “Natural gas will be the backbone rather than the back up for global energy supply,” he said.

The industry must change the perception of unconventional drilling methods including fracking and horizontal drilling, Goodson added.

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