Considering that the North American shale revolution is the key global energy development of the past decade, it’s surprising that Canada’s natural gas production has actually been falling. Canada is still the world’s fifth largest gas producer, but output has dropped around 15 percent over the past 15 years to 16 Bcf/d.
As a free market economy without the over-influence of a national oil company, Canada’s future gas production is desired by the rapidly globalizing gas market. According to BP, Canada has about 80 Tcf of proven gas reserves, and with low incremental needs, this large endowment could make the country a worldwide gas exporter at some point in the 2020s.
The main problem for Canadian gas production is the decline of its sole export market, the U.S., where dry gas production has risen 35 percent to nearly 80 Bcf/d since 2010. In turn, over the past decade, Canada’s gas exports to the U.S. have been sliced in half to 5.5 Bcf/d. This decline will continue: The EIA projects that U.S. gas production will increase 40 percent by 2040.
Enter Canada’s necessity for LNG, the fastest-growing way to trade gas and a market that constitutes a rising 12 percent of all global use. There is great potential to export LNG off the coast of British Columbia, where cargoes can ship gas produced in western Canada to fast growing Asian markets. Western Canada accounts for around 70 percent of the country’s gas production.
Now already online, U.S. LNG will be a competitor for Canadian LNG. But, even with the Panama Canal expansion, the trip from British Columbia to Asia is still approximately two-thirds shorter than from the U.S. Gulf. Hampered today by a global supply glut, potential western Canada’s LNG projects should come online early next decade, right when expected higher oil prices will make Canada’s oil-linked LNG profitable, and the end of many long-term existing contracts will allow Asian buyers to seek new sources of supply.
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