U.S. On Track to Become Top LNG Exporter

Fri, June 07, 2019

Booming natural gas production is expected to propel the U.S. past Qatar and Australia to become the world's top exporter of liquefied natural gas in the next five years, the International Energy Agency predicted in a report made public Friday.

The surge is part of a continued global expansion in natural gas production and consumption, mostly driven by breakneck production in the U.S. and a seemingly bottomless appetite for natural gas in China and other developing nations in Asia.

Worldwide demand last year climbed by 4.6% from 2010, with gas accounting for nearly half the planet's energy consumption. The bulk of the growth in demand was fueled by the U.S. and China, where natural gas power plants are replacing costlier and more heavily polluting coal plants.

The industrial sector, though, also played an outsized role in 2018, with factories, fabricators and other facilities using gas as both a fuel source and a feedstock to make plastics, fertilizers and other products – putting industry on track to account for nearly half of global gas consumption by 2024.

The U.S., meanwhile, saw the biggest jump in production last year since 1951, with output soaring by 11.5%. That made the U.S. the biggest contributor to gas production growth around the world.

Growth in demand through the next five years may slow slightly from 2018, even as it is expected to increase by about 1.6% a year, the IEA said. Europe, for example, has seen renewables such as wind and solar make inroads in place of coal and natural gas. The U.S. and Asia, by contrast, as well as North Africa, which is also home to abundant gas reserves, are expected to drive consumption, especially as countries experience hotter weather driven by climate change – and, in turn, greater demand for air conditioning.