The tides are changing in the United States’ energy trade. New data from the EIA shows that not only has the United States shed its designation as a net importer of natural gas, but it also is continuing to grow as an exporter.
The year 2019 was record-breaking for natural gas exports from the United States. Net exports rose by 2.0 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) from 2018, with 2019’s figures arriving at 5.3Bcf/d. While dwarfed by other major exporters, such as Russia and Canada, the United States is carving out its place in the global gas trade.
EIA estimates do not indicate this trend slowing down. Rather, they forecast increases in gas exports year to year until at least 2021. According to their forecast, the US is anticipated to increase gas exports in 2020 by 2.0 Bcf/d from 2019, totaling an estimated 7.3Bcf/d. This growth is only expected to further increase in 2021, which is estimated to see 8.9Bcf/d in natural gas exports. This would be an additional 1.6 Bcf/d more than in 2020.
LNG exports follow suit. Figures for 2020 are expected to outshine 2019’s by 1.5 Bcf/d, ultimately totaling 6.5 Bcf/d. Like non-LNG gas exports, 2021 is anticipated to follow the trend reaching 7.7 Bcf/d, an addition of 1.2 Bcf/d to 2020’s figures.
As to who is importing American natural gas, Mexico is playing a major role in the United States’ exportation expansion. Primarily transported through newly constructed and improved existing pipeline infrastructure, exports to Mexico rose by 10 percent from January to October of 2019 compared to the same time period in the previous year.
The US has natural gas to spare. As of January 2020, domestic natural gas storage sit at 3,148 Bcf, 20 percent higher than January of 2019. Though storage dipped below the five-year average in early 2019, which contributes to the significant jump for January of this year, 2020’s figures are still two-percent above the five-year average. Storage, along with exports, is projected to continue rising as well, leaving a surplus of gas for domestic use, and international exportation.