IEA: U.S. Could Be World’s Top LNG Exporter by 2022

Previous EID posts have noted how the rapid expansion of American shale gas production is making the U.S. a major player in the world of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Now, transnational organizations are taking notice and pointing to a new era of American LNG that will reduce emissions, increase energy security and remake energy markets.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released its Gas 2017 Report this week, which highlights the meteoric rise in American natural gas production — made possible by fracking — as well as the strong new position the U.S. is enjoying in the global LNG marketplace.

According to the report, the U.S. will account for 40 percent of the world’s new gas production between now and 2022, when U.S. production will be more than a fifth of all global gas output “thanks to remarkable growth in its domestic shale industry.” IEA projects more than half of that production increase will be used for LNG exports. That will be possible due to the fact that four new LNG terminals will quadruple U.S. export capability by 2019, with an equally big wave only a few years behind. By 2022, the report notes, “the IEA estimates that the United States will be on course to challenge Australia and Qatar for global leadership among LNG exporters.”

This is a remarkable development considering it was just 17 months ago that the U.S. sent its first-ever shipment of LNG from Cheniere’s Sabine Pass facility. And the new capability could not come at a better time in the LNG markets.

As EID has previously noted and the IEA report also discusses, Qatar could face challenges due to a diplomatic dispute with neighboring Arab countries. Meanwhile Australia’s domestic production cannot keep pace with demand, driving up domestic natural gas prices. As a result, the Australian government is putting an aggressive cap on exports, giving the next generation of American LNG terminals a huge opportunity.

The U.S. will likely remain immune to Australia’s problems thanks to shale gas, since the IEA forecasts that even with an enormous increase in LNG demand, it will still account for only 10-12 percent of annual U.S. production. This means consumers and businesses will continue enjoying low gas prices even as American LNG fuels a more and more of the world’s economy.

The IEA expects global gas demand to grow by 1.6% a year for the next five years, with consumption reaching almost 4,000 billion cubic meters (bcm) by 2022. More than 40 percent of this growth will come from China, a potentially huge new U.S. customer.

With more than a dozen new terminals in the permit review process and new LNG trade agreements in the works, the U.S. stands ready to supply that need if the Trump Administration follows through on its promises to fast-track approvals.

“The US shale revolution shows no sign of running out of steam and its effects are now amplified by a second revolution of rising LNG supplies,” said Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “Also, the rising number of LNG consuming countries, from 15 in 2005 to 39 this year, shows that LNG attracts many new customers, especially in the emerging world.”

American producers are more able than ever to meet that demand. As EID and J.P. Morgan recently pointed out, breakeven points have been declining steadily even as production has increased, making American shale gas not only a cleaner and safer option, but also a cheaper one.

Since American shale producers are more efficient than ever, the IEA envisions a world of continuing low natural gas prices as a way to unlock new customers for LNG,

“A new wave of liquefaction capacity is coming online at a time when the LNG market is already well supplied. This LNG glut is already affecting price formation and traditional business models – and attracting new LNG-consuming countries like Pakistan, Thailand and Jordan.”

The IEA report also points out the potentially huge environmental advantages of LNG. Exporting clean American natural gas means that some of the world’s largest polluters like China and India, can reduce carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, LNG is bringing thousands of high-paying American jobs from Louisiana to Oregon.

The IEA report concludes, “US LNG will be a catalyst for change in the international gas market, diversifying supply, challenging traditional business models and suppliers, and transforming global gas security.”

That transformation will reduce our emissions, build stronger alliances, and create American jobs. The world needs LNG, and the U.S. is ready to supply it.


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