In the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) August 2021 ‘Short-Term Energy Outlook’ (STEO), it has forecast that US natural gas exports will exceed natural gas imports by an average of 11 billion ft3/d in 2021, or almost 50% more than the 2020 average of 7.5 billion ft3/d.
Increases in LNG exports and in pipeline exports to Mexico are driving this growth in US natural gas exports. For the first time since US LNG exports from the Lower 48 states began in 2016, annual LNG exports are expected to outpace pipeline exports (by an estimated 0.6 billion ft3/d) this year.
The EIA forecasts total US natural gas exports to continue to grow throughout 2021 and 2022, exceeding the record of 14.4 billion ft3/d set in 2020. It expects US exports of natural gas by pipeline and as LNG combined to average 18.3 billion ft3/d in 2021 and 19.3 billion ft3/d in 2022. LNG exports exceeded pipeline exports for the first time on a monthly basis in November 2020, and the EIA expects them to average 9.5 billion ft3/d and exceed natural gas imports by pipeline (8.9 billion ft3/d) in 2021.
In 2020, natural gas exports accounted for 23% of total US energy exports in energy equivalent terms. US LNG exports in particular have grown as the US has added LNG export capacity and expanded its LNG export destinations.
The EIA expects US imports of natural gas by pipeline and as LNG, combined, to increase by 6% compared with 2020, averaging 7.4 billion ft3/d in 2021, before declining to 6.9 billion ft3/d in 2022. Almost all US natural gas imports enter the US from Canada into midwestern and western demand markets. US pipeline imports previously had been declining annually since 2008. However, the EIA expects pipeline imports of natural gas to increase in 2021 because of relatively flat US dry natural gas production and slightly higher US natural gas consumption.
Natural gas exports by pipeline (almost all of which are sent to Mexico) began exceeding gross pipeline imports on an annual basis in 2019. In 2020, US pipeline exports exceeded imports by 1.1 billion ft3/d, and the EIA expects this difference to increase to 1.7 billion ft3/d in 2021 and 2.5 billion ft3/d 2022.
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