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EIA: US to become net gas exporter this year

9 Aug 2017, 7.31 pm GMT

EIA: US to become net gas exporter this year

Houston, 9 August (Argus) — The US should become a net exporter of natural gas this year as low prices have stoked international demand, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.

Exports outstripped imports for three of the five months ended in May, according to the EIA. Gas exports in May, April and February averaged 211mn cf/d (6mn m³/d) higher than imports, shifting from average net imports of about 2.4 Bcf/d for those months in 2016.

Imports overall have still outpaced exports this year by about 48mn cf/d. Volumes have dropped significantly from last year's average imports of 1.8 Bcf/d. That decline underscores the boom in US gas production, the buildout of new pipelines to Mexico and Canada and the startup of an LNG export terminal on the Louisiana coast.

Gas imports from Canada hit a record high in 2007 of about 10 Bcf/d. Those volumes started to decline as US production began growing thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, two techniques that unlocked vast supplies from shale formations, the EIA said.

The wave of new production led to US prompt-month natural gas prices collapsing in March 2016 to a 17-year low below $1.65/mmBtu. Prices have since rebounded, settling today at $2.88/mmBtu, but are still well below levels of the past decade.

The US still imports more gas from Canada than it sends north across the border. US exports to Canada, although, have been on the rise since 2000, when the 1.3 Bcf/d Vector pipeline began service. Vector takes supplies from western Canada, Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma into the Dawn storage hub in eastern Canada.

Expansion projects on northeast pipelines such as Tennessee Gas pipeline, National Fuel Gas Supply also allowed more gas to flow into Canada through Niagara, New York. Gas exports to Canada reached 3.21 Bcf/d in March, near the record of 3.25 Bcf/d in December 2012, the EIA said.

Exports to Mexico averaged about 4 Bcf/d during the first five months of 2017, surpassing last year's average of about 3.8 Bcf/d, as demand from Mexico's power generation and industrial sector grew along its border with the US.

The startup of Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass export terminal on the Louisiana coast has also allowed more US LNG cargoes to reach international markets, while the growth in US supplies has curbed demand for US LNG imports. The US exported 1.96 Bcf/d of LNG abroad in May, compared with 318mn cf/d a year earlier, the EIA said.

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