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Momentous Shift in US Natural Gas, with Global Consequences

Momentous Shift in US Natural Gas, with Global Consequences

And this is just the beginning.

The year 2017 was when the US became a net exporter of natural gas for the first year in history. The production of natural gas has been surging since 2007, when fracking turned into a boom, whittling away at the need for importing natural gas via pipeline from Canada and via LNG from the global markets. Last year, according to the EIA’s just released data, the US exported 129 billion cubic feet (Bcf) more natural gas than it imported. And this is just the beginning:

Exports to Mexico via pipeline have been rising for years as more pipelines have entered service and as Mexican power generators have switched from burning oil to burning cheap US natural gas (the US imports no natural gas from Mexico).

In 2017, natural gas pipeline exports to Mexico surged 12% year-over-year to 1,543 Bcf. But in 2016, a new trend became visible: US natural gas exports via LNG tanker to Mexico (marked in red in the chart below), which rose from negligible in prior years to 28 Bcf in 2016 and to 141 Bcf in 2017. Total exports to Mexico jumped 20% year-over year in 2017, to 1,684 Bcf:

The US has a bilateral natural-gas trading relationship with Canada, both importing and exporting. Exports to Canada have surged from almost nothing in the late 1990s to a peak of 2,145 Bcf in 2016 but fell 5% in 2017 to 2,043 Bcf.

Imports from Canada, while they rose over the past two years, remain in the range established over the past two decades. But due to the surge in exports to Canada, net imports (imports minus exports) have plunged 43% from a peak of 3,600 billion cubic feet in 1999 to 2,042 Bcf:

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