Excelerate Energy president and managing director Steven Kobos discusses the future of the FSRU industry
Mr Kobos’ enthusiasm for the floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) business is almost palpable. For nearly 20 years he has worked for Excelerate Energy’s shareholder and founder George B. Kaiser in his larger energy group. He has served Excelerate as a lawyer, director and developer on various projects for the past 12 years.
“I knew that Excelerate was going to be something special when Mr Kaiser acquired the makings of Excelerate from El Paso back in 2003,” says Mr Kobos. He says his own break came in 2007 when he was asked to spend three months in Kuwait to negotiate what would become their first LNG import terminal. “After that I was hooked and I was fortunate enough to be involved at the deal table in 10 additional FSRU regas projects that Excelerate put together in the ensuing years. I have loved every minute of it.”
Privately-held Excelerate owns and operates FSRUs that have regasified at 15 different terminals from Boston to Bangladesh, regasifying approximately 70.6M tonnes of LNG.
“Bringing an FSRU project online is a massive undertaking”, says Mr Kobos. “Whether onshore or offshore, when we are serving as EPC contractor or when we are building a proprietary terminal, there are going to be construction challenges. It is in our culture to embrace those challenges, and because of the unique aspects of floating terminals, we have been able to expand our engineering know-how over the years.”
While FSRUs represent just a fraction of the world LNG carrier fleet, Mr Kobos talks about the valuable role they can play in introducing LNG into new markets, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“FSRUs provide an economical and efficient means of accessing natural gas to those markets in need of supply. Time is always going to be critical when fuel switching is involved, and there are massive daily savings, often in the millions of dollars, in fuel costs for our counterparties”, he says. “Some markets find the security of supply to be paramount. Some, like Excelerate’s terminal in Boston, can serve in a peak shaving function and convey huge seasonal benefits, while also serving as the best possible partner for increasing renewables. The global LNG supply is increasing. FSRUs will help find a home for it as they are best positioned to open new markets. FSRUs are here to stay as a vital part of the global market.”
Mr Kobos says, “an obsession of his” is working with Excelerate’s existing customers to understand their evolving needs and how the company can better serve them.
He’s bullish on the role LNG will play in the world’s energy picture, seeing it as essential in the decarbonization process. “For example, this past winter, we put two FSRUs on our terminal offshore Boston. Because we were able to inject natural gas at the right times – a relatively modest amount of LNG (less than 6Bn ft3) – we were able to have a drastic impact on the environment in New England. LNG imports from our terminal helped reduce oil-fired power generation from an average 557 MW in Jan/Feb 2018 to just 41 MW in Jan/Feb 2019. This equates to removing the carbon equivalent of over 6M cars from the road when compared to the previous year’s cold snap, when we did not deliver LNG to the region.”
Mr Kobos concludes: “Whether you regard LNG as a bridging or a destination fuel, its ability to ramp up and down quickly across a system makes it the perfect complement to all forms of renewables. Inevitably when Excelerate opens a market, we significantly displace dirtier fuels, and that is part of why we are so passionate about our mission.”
Steven Kobos - Snapshot CV