REPORT. And France adored American shale gas…

In this Louisiana that inspired “South” performed by Nino Ferrer not only linen on the terraces, children on the lawns, cats, turtles and goldfish. There are also oil wells, oil refineries, petrochemical complexes.

And liquefaction plants that will help Europe – which is already helping Europe – break free from dependence on Russian gas. And if this replacement, at least partial, is possible, it is not because President Joe Biden decided so. His statements, made on March 25 in Brussels, brought a smile to the market experts who know what private companies decide to export. It turns out that US gas, like oil, is on the rise, and groups like TotalEnergies, Cheniere, NextDecade are finding customers in Europe willing to pay high prices for LNG, which was not the case a few years ago.

Gas and oil off the beaten track

As you follow the American coastline from Houston to the Cameron plant, of which TotalEnergies is a shareholder, in Louisiana, you encounter surreal contrasts.

The background is swamps as far as the eye can see. Alligators sleep peacefully in these semi-desert bays, away from the noise of pickup trucks and big “trucks” (trucks) cross the vast expanses of Texas, larger than France, and Louisiana, which is five times the size of Brittany.

Roads stretch like a labyrinth of land, lakes, rivers, reed beds. The meadows are scarcely eaten away by a variety of shops, service stations, caravan stops, churches, small factories, ungrateful dwellings, often on stilts, still scratched in places by the last hurricane. If you look closely, there are two categories of houses in Louisiana: those whose roof has been destroyed and those whose roof has just been redone.

Oil and gas dominate the landscape everywhere. Here is the oil pump, just like in the movies. There are pipes, ridiculous, coming out of the ground in a fenced enclosure. In the distance, in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, silhouettes of offshore platforms stand out on the horizon.

And a forest of gleaming pipes, chimneys, and tanks regularly emerging from the swamps, where new stainless steel sometimes rivals old rust. We can be in Port Arthur, Galveston, Garyville, Baton Rouge, Beaumont. Or off the beaten path along the Gulf of Mexico, which has become an Eldorado for hydrocarbons.

In Calcasieu LNG tankers between dolphins

On the outskirts of Lake Charles Gold nuggets looks like a resort hotel with a swimming pool, a casino and a beach on the banks of the river. But jet skis meet more coal and chemical barges there than pedal boats. And a few hundred meters away, as the sun sets, the lights shining like a horizontal Christmas tree are the lights of oil refineries.

Nearby, on the serene and shoreless Lake Calcasieu, it is not only shrimp trawlers that disturb the numerous dolphins.

Approximately every two days, gas carriers nearly 300 meters long arrive at the Cameron LNG plant on its shores to load one hundred million dollars worth of natural gas.

Each cargo of around 150,000 m3, equivalent to the daily consumption of gas in France, is sent by four tugboats under the phlegmatic gaze of pelicans.

Boom after decades of decline

In these southern states, oil and gas will never take long. However, if the fortunes of the country-continent were born in the oil fields of Pennsylvania, California, Alaska, Texas and other southern states, then on the seabed of the Gulf of Mexico, “big oil” companies are not faithful. friends.

US oil production, long the largest in the world, has declined since the 1970s until recently.

And refineries, also fueled by oil imported from Louisiana’s only Loop terminal, have followed the same trend, increasing employment in the process.

The number of refineries in states bordering the Gulf Coast (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida) has increased from 113 in the 1980s to 51 today. Louisiana alone has lost about 20 people, and since 2014, “big oil” has cut 25,000 jobs there.

But then, starting in 2007, the shale oil and gas revolution began. A controversial production technology that is not new (it was invented at the beginning of the 20th century), but has experienced a brilliant optimization thanks to the new technology of horizontal rather than vertical drilling. And thanks to this oil “made in USA” broke all his records in four years.

As for the gas, it explodes. TotalEnergies is betting on this new direction with its acquisition of Engie (formerly GDF-Suez) four years ago.

TotalEnergies invests again in Cameron LNG

TotalEnergies, which owns the Port Arthur refinery and shares in several oil fields, is betting more than ever on the United States. He has invested heavily in solar power, offshore wind power, and this new American El Dorado: liquefied natural gas (LNG, or LNG, as its English acronym). Natural gas, identical to that burned for heating, but refined and liquefied by extreme refrigeration so that it can be exported on ships around the world.

On April 11, TotalEnergies and its partners announced the signing of an agreement for new investments in the fourth “line” (gas liquefaction unit) at this Cameron LNG plant, of which there are already three.

In this plant, TotalEnergies owns 16.6%, as do two Japanese shareholders, Mitsui and Japan LNG Investment. Their presence is explained by a very strong dependence on the gas of the Japanese archipelago, devoid of energy resources. The rest of the capital, 50.2%, belongs to the American group Sempra.

With the fourth “line” and the modernization of three existing Cameron LNG production capacities will increase from 13.5 to 20 million tons of LNG per year.

The plant would then produce the equivalent of just over half of all the gas consumed by France, which, however, would have to fight the rest of the world to get its share.

$10 billion factory

At Cameron LNG, which employs 300 technicians, the $10 billion already invested can be seen at a glance: on the equivalent of 500 football fields, it’s a gleaming jungle of pipes, tanks, valves, compressors, heat exchangers…

REPORT. And France adored American shale gas…