COVID-19

Pandemic puts natural gas projects on hold

Andy Uhler Oct 12, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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David McNew/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Pandemic puts natural gas projects on hold

Andy Uhler Oct 12, 2020
David McNew/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The COVID-19 pandemic has suppressed demand for energy around the world, and the United States is producing a lot of natural gas that doesn’t have anywhere to go.

Last year saw massive investment in liquified natural gas facilities, but that expansion has come to a grinding halt. The price of natural gas is at historic lows, so the plans to expand existing liquified natural gas terminals and build more in the U.S. have been put on hold.

“They may not be put off forever — some just a couple years, some maybe a bit longer,” said Joshua Rhodes, research associate at the University of Texas Energy Institute.

Rhodes said that could hurt workers in places like the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana.

“As that process stops, you’re going to have less need for construction workers; you’re gonna have less need for the engineers and the overseers on those projects,” Rhodes said.

And beyond the stalled projects, Rhodes said reduced LNG exports mean less work for those who already have jobs in natural gas. Because building facilities requires a huge capital investment, they have to remain active for a while, according to Nikos Tsafos, a senior fellow with the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“The thing about LNG projects is they have a long time horizon,” he said. “They take about five years to build, and they stay online for 20 plus years.”

Tsafos said that means energy companies have to assume we’ll be consuming natural gas for decades, despite accelerating climate change concerns.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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