Energy guru Charif Souki, the chairman and co-founder of Tellurian, told CNBC on Wednesday that the natural gas industry is going to need a major fund infusion to keep drilling.
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“We have so much natural gas in this country,” Souki told “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer. “Just the amount of gas that is already behind pipe, or that is going to be found because of oil production at $60 a barrel, is going to require over $150 billion of infrastructure investment over the next five years.”
Souki, formerly CEO of Cheniere Energy, co-founded Tellurian to take advantage of the industry’s need for low-cost liquefied natural gas.
Tellurian is currently developing export terminals for liquefied natural gas, making investments in pipelines and funding some natural gas production. Construction on its first U.S.-based terminal is slated to begin in 2019.
But Souki, one of the few executives in the space who called both the collapse and recovery in oil prices, said infrastructure was proving to be a bigger hurdle than many people think.
“We had very low prices for three years and therefore all the producers are now not very financially stable so they cannot invest. And the U.S. is a savior,” Souki said. “However, we don’t have the infrastructure to take it to the water. We’ve been geared to take it from the water to the rest of the country, and now we have to be able to get it from where it’s produced to the water, and that infrastructure doesn’t exist.”
Even so, Souki, now at the helm of one of the world’s cheapest producers of natural gas, said that companies are “automatically attracted” to Tellurian’s pitch.
Having contacted more than 100 companies about its offering, Tellurian’s job is now to herd those companies together for an optimal customer base, the executive said.
“We have the cheapest gas in the world, so they need our gas,” he told Cramer. “We want to have the flexibility to choose the cheapest all the time, whether we have to drill for it or simply source it from the Apache likes.”
Still, even with rising oil prices and the shifting landscape for natural gas, Souki said that Washington’s outlook on his business is little changed.
“It’s the same,” the executive said. “The Trump administration is prouder of us than the Obama administration was, so one brags about us and the other one used to hide [us] … but they were both very supportive.”
Disclosure: Cramer’s charitable trust owns shares of Apache.
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