AUSTIN, Texas, Dec. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Westlake Securities partner Randy Finch addressed Grant Thornton's partners and managing directors on November 15, 2012 at the firm's Annual Leadership Conference in Scottsdale Arizona. Nearly 800 current and retired partners and managing directors from Grant Thornton LLP offices across the U.S. attended the annual meeting. Finch's presentation, New Frontiers in Energy, was given in a breakout session for Grant Thornton's energy industry specialists. The presentation focused on new trends and developments in the energy sector, specifically the natural gas megatrend that is currently driving the North America shale plays. "What we are witnessing is the beginning of a global revolution in the way we produce energy and power," said Finch. "Breakthrough technologies in 3-D subsurface imaging and drilling and production are unlocking enormous energy reserves that were not accessible just a few years ago. "The shale energy age, which is being pioneered here in North America, will eventually go global as the insatiable demand for power in the developing world accelerates. A recent U.S. government contracted study estimates that there are over 6.6 quadrillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas in 32 countries worldwide. That represents over 50 years worth of global consumption," said Finch. "The story here at home in the U.S. is even more compelling. We have over 2.5 quadrillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas, including the shale plays. That represents over 100 years of consumption at the current rate, and eventually puts us ahead of Saudi Arabia as the world's largest energy producer. This is nothing short of a national security issue." In its 2012 Outlook for Energy report, ExxonMobil projects that global electricity demand will increase by over 80% by 2040, and that natural gas will surpass coal as the leading fuel source for power generation. "This projection was the primary impetus behind ExxonMobil's bet on shale gas in its $41 billion acquisition of XTO Energy, said Finch. Beyond power generation, Finch predicts significant growth in the number of natural gas powered vehicles over the next 20 years. "There are currently over 15 million natural gas powered vehicles operating worldwide. Less than 150,000 or 1% of those are in North America. If you do the math, a CNG or LNG powered vehicle can be fueled at a $2.00 per gallon diesel or gasoline equivalent. Economics will drive the conversion." Finch went on to comment on Westlake's current view of the energy capital market environment. "We are seeing increasing transaction flow in both the E&P and energy services sectors. Additionally, enterprise values have continued to increase as we slowly rebound from the financial crisis of 2008. Lenders are returning to more normal credit standards after being extraordinarily cautious through the recent recession. 2012 has been the busiest year ever for Westlake." Mr. Finch's presentation also contained a note of caution.