Toward the end of the last decade, the U.S. was focused on developing port facilities suitable for importing natural gas from international sources, lessening our dependence on foreign oil.
As a result of that flurry of activity and the power of human ingenuity and technology, it's estimated that we now have a supply of natural gas that will last us more than a century. Our focus has now moved from importing to developing strategically located production and distribution facilities that will service the maritime transportation sector and, eventually, be able to export natural gas to nations looking to consume it.
With a 100-year supply of an energy source that is cost-effective as well as environmentally friendly, it’s easy to understand why the national dialogue around natural gas, whether liquefied or compressed, has accelerated dramatically and its use is moving toward the “tipping point.”
Maritime companies, facing many factors increasing the costs of doing business, have quickly realized this energy source could be a key to the future. In particular, those companies operating in the Environmental Control Area zones along the coasts, now required to invest in ways to reduce emissions and particulate matter produced by their ships, are gravitating to liquefied natural gas.
As ports gear up to serve early adopters, it is only a matter of time before a significant number of international shipping companies, many struggling to maintain consistent profitability, begin moving in the direction of this lower cost, cleaner fuel alternative.
The next logical step in the product life cycle is LNG’s expanded use outside of the U.S. Like the early adopting carriers, those ports and communities that embrace the opportunity before us stand to gain the most — jobs, economic growth and business connectivity with communities around the world.
While some are still asking basic questions about LNG supply and demand, I believe we’ve got our answers and those businesses and regions able to act on the opportunities now stand to reap the greatest benefits.
Brian W. Taylor is CEO of the Jacksonville Port Authority