After being held up for years, the giant natural gas boom is ready to happen...
It's a familiar story to long-time readers... Thanks to advances in drilling technology, America now has a 100-year-plus supply of natural gas. As a result, prices have collapsed to near historic lows.
Within a few short years, we'll be exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG). We'll see thousands of trucks converted to run on natural gas. And hundreds of natural-gas-fueling stations will pop up all across the U.S.
Obvious winners include Westport Innovations (NASDAQ: WPRT) (natural gas engines), Chart Industries (NASDAQ: GTLS) (LNG storage), and Cheniere Energy (NYSEAMEX: LNG) (LNG exports). My Small Stock Specialist subscribers have pocketed big returns on many of these stocks in less than two years.
But they're not the only companies that will see huge increases in profits. The next leg of this energy megatrend is beginning to take place right now. Here's why...
The natural gas market isn't a typical "global" market like the market for iron ore, copper, or crude oil. Right now, natural gas cannot be easily shipped over the ocean like a load of iron ore. It requires extremely expensive, extremely complex loading/unloading terminals and ships.
Because of the cost of these terminals, we don't have an extensive transportation network for natural gas. Thus, natural gas prices can be very low in North America, but very high in Asia.
Because of the awesome boom in North American natural gas production, the current price of its natural gas is below $3.50 per million British thermal units (BTUs). The U.S. government expects prices to stay below $5 for another decade.
India, China, and Europe are starving for the clean fuel. But they have not unlocked major shale deposits. Thus, prices are much higher there. Prices for natural gas in these areas averaged around $11 per million to $16 per million BTUs last year. That's roughly 200%-350% higher than U.S. prices.
The National Energy Administration predicts China will import 35% of its natural gas needs by 2015. India is expected to begin importing natural gas in two years. Japan and most of the biggest economies in Europe are also big importers. So the differentials between natural gas prices in the U.S. and the rest of the world should remain intact for several years.
These price gaps present a huge opportunity for investors...
Energy giants like ExxonMobil, BP, and Chevron are partnering up with some of the largest state-owned energy giants to open up LNG export terminals along U.S. coastlines.
Consulting firm Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. estimates that U.S. energy companies can generate $93 million per day exporting LNG at Japan's current import price of $15 per million BTUs. That's over $30 billion of new income each year.
Right now, only one company has been licensed to build an LNG export facility. That's Cheniere Energy. However, there are at least 16 in the pipeline awaiting government approval. I expect several of these projects to get approved in 2013.
These projects didn't get approved last year because 2012 was an election year. Neither party would risk votes by approving such a measure. Recent studies commissioned by the government and released last month show the huge economic benefits from building these LNG facilities.
They would allow the U.S. to export billions of cubic feet of natural gas per day. More important, they would create millions of new jobs and generate billions of dollars in new income for the U.S. government, which is in dire need of more revenue.
Sure, it would take years before America actually exports the clean fuel. It also costs tens of billions of dollars to build these facilities, which require pipelines, large shipping terminals, and massive storage facilities. In other words, I wouldn't be buying natural gas producers on the hopes prices rebound in the near term.
Instead, I recommend focusing on the companies that supply the building materials and building services for all the infrastructure we're going to need. It's like focusing on Cisco and Microsoft during the Internet boom of the 1990s. These companies were huge winners because they supplied the Internet's infrastructure. (They were a much better bet than fad websites).
As I mentioned, my readers have done very well in Chart Industries (GTLS). It provides products and systems for natural gas storage and transmission. You can also consider a company like Chicago Bridge & Iron (NYSE: CBI), which builds natural gas terminals.
Whatever way you decide to trade it, make sure you take a position soon. Now that the election is past, politicians can actually make some things happen with this giant potential trend. But the best time to get in is before you hear about it on the news.