5Qs with Martin Houston, Vice Chairman, Tellurian Inc.

Martin Houston
Martin Houston
Vice Chairman
By Tellurian Inc. | 27 September 2017

Following his studies which commenced with a bachelor’s degree in geology from Newcastle University in 1979 and then a petroleum geology master’s degree from Imperial College London in 1983, Martin was employed by BG Group plc and its predecessor companies, retiring after 32 years in February 2014 as Chief Operating Officer and a member of the board of directors. 

In 2011 he was the first recipient of the CWC LNG Executive of the Year award.  Martin was previously a non-executive director of Severn Trent plc and a former director of SIGTTO, He was the GIIGNL regional vice-president for the Americas, a non-executive director of BUPA, and a non-executive director of CCC Energy.

He co-founded Tellurian Investments with Charif Souki in 2015 and was appointed the chairman of TPH International. Martin was also appointed as the vice-chairman of Hakluyt North in 2016 and the Senior Advisor to Gresham Partners in 2017.

1. Market rebalancing is expected to take longer for gas than for oil. When do you see this happening and how will Tellurian adapt to the change?

It is clear that sometime early next decade the market will be short of LNG again. We are not in the business of declaring exactly when, but Tellurian believes that demand is likely to surprise to the upside around 2022/2023. Growing demand in emerging markets, declining production in both gas and LNG producing countries, increased desire for cleaner air – these are just a few of the factors driving increased demand for natural gas in electricity generation, transport and heating.  

Tellurian believes that cost is paramount – lower priced LNG means more demand in more sectors for natural gas. We are focused on making the Driftwood project an example for others in the industry to follow: simpler, faster and much cheaper. 

2. Asia has long been paying more for gas than their counterparts in the US. How will this price change as Asia’s gas market develops further?

 Asia can and will benefit from the US’ liquidity – increased trade and investment between the US and Asian markets will help to lower the LNG price over the longer term. However, it is not as simple as simply waiting for US production to ramp up. Third party access and destination flexibility in Asia are crucial to increasing liquidity and ensuring adequate supply in difficult moments. LNG demand is very sticky and the market is not yet deep enough to avoid significant cost increases when the weather turns colder. To avoid these situations, buyers need to invest in supply before it’s too late – something that is not always easy when it takes six to seven years for a plant to come online. Doing nothing now is not an option. 

3. What sets the U.S. apart from the strong competition in the Asian LNG market?

The US has several very unique factors that have helped it create the most liquid natural gas market in the world: a regulatory environment allowing for timely development of resource, years of infrastructure build-out, a deep labor market, and a tremendous amount of resource in the ground. People feel comfortable making long-term investments in the US because the risks are far fewer than those in other markets – you know what you are getting. Tellurian sees this as one of its great advantages and one of the ways it can be cost competitive with gas from anywhere in the world. 

4. Tellurian has stated that LNG plant costs need to be lower, with US$500 - 600/tonne as its goal. How feasible is this benchmark for the industry?

The US is one of the key reasons why this is possible – again, the deep labor market, stable regulatory environment and experienced contractors all make low costs a realistic goal. We chose the US Gulf Coast for our Driftwood Project for all the reasons that the US facilitates plus the deepwater access, good marine navigation routes and great community support. However, you cannot rely on your location alone, you have to align interests between your partners. We have a very deep relationship with Bechtel, GE and Chart – they share our vision for a lower cost LNG project. They know the world is watching, and that we all benefit if we are a success. 

5. What are your thoughts on the SIEW 2017 theme, “Rethinking Energy; Navigating Change”?*

This is an appropriate title and matches the energy dilemma many countries, utilities and consumers face. We would argue that all hydrocarbon routes point to gas and LNG, but at the same time recognize the need to partner with renewables and encourage their coexistence. Change is always scary, but cool heads need to prevail to ensure that we make the right choices and are not dragged along by unworkable and unsustainable hubris.


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