Getting to know the USTDA

Nov. 6, 2017
Carl B. Kress is someone in the federal government more people and companies in the oil and gas community should get to know. His job at the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) is to help put US suppliers of goods and services in touch with governments in developing and middle-income countries that are developing energy projects.

Carl B. Kress is someone in the federal government more people and companies in the oil and gas community should get to know. His job at the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) is to help put US suppliers of goods and services in touch with governments in developing and middle-income countries that are developing energy projects.

"We're about supporting US exports. The end result is US jobs," Kress told the Natural Gas Roundtable at its monthly luncheon on Oct. 26.

Kress, whose USTDA titles include energy sector worldwide team leader, said the agency has been facilitating new business partnerships between US companies and overseas gas project sponsors for more than 35 years.

Its gas sector efforts have helped 411 US firms become involved in 349 projects in 75 countries, generating an estimated $7 billion of US exports. These have included LNG import terminals in Lithuania and Romania, an LNG terminal and electric power generation project in Thailand, and coal-from-methane projects in China, India, and Colombia.

Its project preparation tools include feasibility studies, technical assistance, training grants, and reverse trade missions. For example, a USTDA-sponsored reverse trade mission from Turkey was in Houston the day he spoke in Washington to discuss a regional gas hub.

"We want to help foreign governments think things through and reach more rational energy decisions," Kress said. USTDA's global procurement initiative aims to help countries thinking of changing their strategies from simply picking the lowest cost supplier to using several different sources, he said.

"We supported the Lithuania LNG import terminal, which resulted in $6 million of US exports. The Thailand project could generate $25 million," Kress said. The agency expects to announce another major gas export project on Nov. 16 which he said would involve many companies and feature some new elements, he said.

Earlier successes

USTDA played a role in bringing US suppliers to gas pipeline projects in Turkey and the Caspian basin in the 1990s, Kress said. Gas-fired power plants have worked well because they build local employment using US technology, according to Kress. "We actually have a natural gas advisory service under way in South Africa on pipelines and import terminals," he said.

More recently, the agency has worked on potential shale gas projects in Indonesia and China, but without results so far, Kress said. USTDA works with other federal agencies and domestic trade associations on finding the best ways to approach foreign governments. "Sometimes, groups can be more effective than individuals," he said.

Kress also emphasized that he wants to hear from US companies. "If one comes to me with a fantastic idea, I'm all ears," he said.