Friday, August 11, 2017

U.S. about to become a net exporter of natural gas for the first time in 60 years

For the first time since 1957, the United States is poised to become a net exporter of natural gas. "That's according to data from the Census Bureau and the U.S. Energy Information Administration. While imports of gas are flat or falling, exports continue to rise, and the data give weight to government analysts' conviction that the United States is on track to become a net energy exporter, possibly as soon as within a decade," Nathanial Gronewold reports for Environment & Energy News.

The U.S. exported more gas than it imported for four out of the first six months in 2017, selling $593 million in natural gas to foreign countries and importing $566 million from gas pipelines from Canada and as liquefied natural gas (LNG). Exports to Mexico are rising, especially as Mexico relies increasingly on gas-fired power plants. Exports to Canada have risen steadily since the Vector pipeline went into service in 2000. The U.S. remains a net importer of natural gas from Canada, but Canadian imports are slowing since the "shale gas revolution unlocked huge new volumes of U.S. gas reserves," Gronewold reports.

Not all natural gas is the same though: imports and exports of natural gas this year overall are about equal at around $4.2 billion each, but the subset of liquefied natural gas sales is much more lopsided: The U.S. has exported $1.7 billion in LNG in 2017, but only imported $346 million worth. LNG exports are poised to grow even more, as Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass "is now poised to expand export capacity. Freeport LNG south of Houston expects to begin liquefaction and shipments in late 2018 or early 2019. Dominion Energy's Cove Point LNG in Maryland will be in service by the end of this year, the company says. More projects are coming in Corpus Christi, Texas; elsewhere in the Gulf of Mexico region; and at Georgia's Elba Island," Gronewold reports.

Proponents of natural gas say natural gas exports will help close the U.S.'s trade deficit; there is no evidence it is doing so yet, but that may change in the future if the natural gas boom continues. The deficit created by goods trade with China and other countries is so large that energy exports have a ways to go before they'll make a substantial dent.

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