The last time the United States was a net exporter of natural gas was in 1957, when Dwight Eisenhower was president. That should change in 2018 when the country is expected to become the world’s third-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
By the end of next year, U.S. LNG export capacity in the lower 48 states will top 6 billion cubic feet per day (BCFD), or 8 percent of the country’s domestic consumption, up from zero at the beginning of 2016. Six BCFD of gas can fuel about 30 million U.S. homes, or almost every house in California, Texas and Florida combined.
That growth in U.S. LNG exports is set to transform world energy markets. Just a decade ago, before the shale revolution, the United States was expected to become a growing LNG importer, not an exporter, likely dependent on Russian, Middle East and North African gas, much as it has for decades depended on foreign crude.
Instead, the U.S. will become a competitor to the global gas powers by offering cheaper and more flexible cargoes and even a more politically palatable supplier to buyers such as the Europeans. The increased supply of North American LNG could bring more predictability to pricing through the development of more liquid trading markets.
“We are set to see unprecedented growth in U.S. LNG volumes over the next few years,” said Andrew Walker, vice president strategy at Cheniere Marketing, a unit of U.S. LNG company Cheniere Energy Inc (LNG.A).