Lay Predicts 'Bright Future' for U.S. Natural Gas Industry

Article excerpt

Natural gas will be the cornerstone of strong growth in the U.S. energy indistry over the next five years, according to Kenneth L. Lay, chairman and chief executive officer of Enron Corp. of Houston.

A bright future for the natural gas industry was predicted by Lay, who was speaking before the Economic Club of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

"The rapid growth in oil imports has significant national security implications, and the oil import costs have become very troublesome," he said. "Petroleum imports have risen from 32 percent in 1983 to approximately 40 percent in 1987.

"Further," Lay said, "imports are expected to reach a level of approximately 50 percent as early as 1990 and grow to 65 to 75 percent by the end of the 1990s. The oil import bill is estimated at $50 billion in 1987, up from $37 billion in 1986. The price we pay for imported oil represents about 11 percent of all U.S. imports, and that level is growing rapidly as price and volumes increase."

The growing dependency on oil imports and recent changes in natural gas regulation suggest a bright future for the natural gas industry, he said.

"Oklahoma will be inextricably tied to that future since natural gas and gas liquids comprise about 80 percent of the state's reserves," he said. "With the deregulation of natural gas, the removal of restrictions prohibiting the burning of natural gas and the movement to open access on the nation's pipeline systems, most of the regulatory barriers of the past will soon be history."

There are potential incremental markets to dramatically increase natural gas demand, Lay said, and there are sufficient resources to satisfy that demand. …