SAN ANTONIO, April 29 (Reuters) - Leading independent U.S. refiner Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N) is weighing a move into natural gas production to supply its refineries and as a hedge against future price increases, said Valero Chief Executive Bill Klesse at the company's annual meeting on Thursday.
"If we can get into the natural gas business, get reserves that are committed to Valero, you're getting into a $4 market," Klesse said to reporters following the annual meeting. "I don't know where gas prices will be 10 years from now. I think we're going to look at it seriously, but as to how we would do it, I don't know."
Natural gas prices NGc1 have sunk to $4 per million British thermal units, down from a record high above $13 in 2008. Several oil majors are increasing their investment in natural gas, which is seen as a way for the United States to slash greenhouse gas emissions and cut its dependence on foreign oil.
Valero's 15 North American refineries consume 400 million cubic feet of natural gas per day in part to supply hydrogen to units that remove pollutants from motor fuel and boost the production of diesel fuels from crude oil.
"Natural gas prices are low," Klesse said. "In a way it would be a hedge on the future."