Seoul will import U.S. shale to offset trade deficit

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Seoul will import U.S. shale to offset trade deficit

While the Donald Trump administration continues to express concern over its goods trade deficit with Korea, Seoul will officially import U.S. shale gas for the first time starting next month.

According to Korea Gas Corporation (Kogas) on Monday, it will import 2.8 million tons of shale gas annually, which is worth about $1 billion, for 20 years.

Kogas said it held the reception ceremony for importing U.S. liquefied natural gas with Cheniere Energy at Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Louisiana on Sunday, local time.

The Korean government announced earlier this year that it will diversify the sources of its imports of crude oil to include shale gas from the United States to reduce Korea’s trade surplus with America in the hopes of avoiding being labeled a currency manipulator by the Trump administration.

Kogas signed a deal with Cheniere to buy LNG from them in 2012 and it was the first time for the Asian company to make agreements to purchase U.S. shale gas. The deal will last from 2017 to 2036 and the gas will first arrive to Korea in July.

Currently, Kogas also imports LNG from the Middle East, but Kogas cannot resell imported gas from the Middle East to other countries. However, Kogas will be able to freely trade imported gas from the United States, which the company can manage more flexibly based on supply and demand.

“Korean shipbuilders and shippers will manage the transportation of the Sabine Pass deal and we expect it will help their economic situation,” said Lee Chang-geun, a director at Kogas.

According to the gas company, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Samsung Heavy Industries won orders to build six ships for the new project in 2015. Hyundai Shipping, Korealines Corporation and SK Shipping will manage transportation.

Also, Kogas CEO Lee Seung-hoon will be a part of the business delegations that will join President Moon Jae-in’s visit to the United States later this week. Lee is the only head of an energy-related public institution to be part of the team.

A Kogas representative said the company expects Lee and U.S. counterparts will discuss strengthening ties between the two countries in various ways, including possibly by importing more shale gas.

BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]

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