U.S. sees LNG as a security option for Seoul

June 11 (UPI) — Through its emerging role in the global energy space, U.S. liquefied natural gas supports security for South Korea, a State Department spokesman said.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy Sandra Oudkirk hosted South Korea Minister for Foreign Affairs and Energy Kwon Sei-joong to discuss how energy could strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries.

Vincent Campos, a spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, told UPI during the weekend that Oudkirk assured her South Korean counterparts that liquefied natural gas from the United States was available for Seoul under U.S. policies.

“And in our new dominant role in the energy sector, the United States actively shares our successes with our partners and allies, such as the Republic of Korea, in a wide range of energy issues including energy exports and technology sharing,” he said.

South Korea’s energy policies place natural gas and renewable energy as priorities in a sector looking to step away from nuclear and coal. After taking office last year, South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged to work toward low-carbon policies under a five-year energy plan.

One of the largest LNG importers in the world, Moon’s policies envision a 38 percent share for LNG in the power generation capacity by 2030, but might only reach about 19 percent because demand is slow and policy directives have eased because of industry backlash, according to commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts.

U.S. company Cheniere Energy signed a 20-year sales and purchase agreement with Korea Gas Corp. last year to deliver 3.5 million tons of LNG per year to the Korean peninsula. That accounts for about 10 percent of South Korea’s total demand for LNG.

Cheniere is the only company exporting LNG from the United States. Total U.S. gas exports, including piped gas, averaged 9.6 billion cubic feet per day during the first quarter of 2018, more than 60 percent higher than the same period two years ago.

Rich in shale natural gas, the United States was a net gas exporter in the first quarter. Like other countries in the region, the State Department spokesman said LNG is a source of energy security as its maneuverability offers a buffer from some of the geopolitical complexities of piped natural gas.

“The discussion reinforced the role energy cooperation plays in strengthening the U.S.-R.O.K. partnership and focused on national energy policies, bilateral energy cooperation, regional energy issues, and areas of mutual cooperation in multilateral fora devoted to energy,” Campos said.