By 2022, the United States will be on course to challenge Australia and Qatar for global leadership among LNG exporters, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates.
Despite the fact that the demand for gas in the United States – the world’s largest gas consumer and producer – is growing, the IEA forecasts that the US will account for 40% of the world’s extra gas production to 2022 thanks to the “remarkable growth in its domestic shale industry”.
Global gas demand is expected to grow by 1.6% a year for the next five years, with consumption reaching almost 4,000 billion cubic meters (bcm) by 2022, up from 3,630 bcm in 2016. China will account for 40% of this growth, according to the IEA.
By 2022, US production will be 890 bcm, or more than a fifth of global gas output. Production from the Marcellus, one of the world’s largest fields, will increase by 45% between 2016 and 2022, even at current low price levels, as producers increase efficiency and produce more gas with fewer rigs, IEA’s data shows.
“While US domestic demand for gas is growing, thanks to higher consumption from the industrial sector, more than half of the production increase will be used for liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export,” the agency pointed out.
“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. However, whether these countries remain long-term consumers or opportunistic buyers will depend on price competition.”
“The environmental advantages of natural gas, particularly when replacing coal, also deserve more attention from policy makers.”
As explained, 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.
At the same time, this ample availability of LNG is also creating new competition with pipeline gas supplies, resulting in loosening of pricing and contractual rigidities that have traditionally characterized long-distance gas trade.
“The change will be accelerated by the expansion of US exports, which are not tied to any particular destination and will play a major role in increasing the liquidity and flexibility of LNG trade,” the agency added.