Natural gas will overtake oil as the most-used fuel in the U.S. by 2030 as the country’s supplies balloon, the International Energy Agency said.
So-called unconventional gas, extracted from sources including shale rock and coal beds, will account for almost half of the increase in global output of the fuel by 2035, the Paris- based adviser to 28 industrialized nations said today in its World Energy Outlook. U.S. production will rise 23 percent and supply most of the growth along with China and Australia.
A boom in supplies of natural gas trapped in shale has reduced prices to a 10-year low of $1.902 a million cubic meters in April on the New York Mercantile Exchange. U.S. producers including Cheniere Energy Inc. (LNG) have proposed liquefied natural gas export terminals to meet demand in Asia.
“The place that’s going to be cheapest for gas exports is the U.S. and Canada,” Thierry Bros, an analyst at Societe Generale SA in Paris, said today by phone.
The U.S. will begin exporting around 2018, Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist, said today at a press conference in London. Its external shipments will reach 19 billion cubic meters in 2020, compared with imports in 2010 of 76 billion cubic meters, the agency estimated in the report. North American exports will be 35 billion cubic meters, it said.
U.S. production will rise to 800 billion cubic meters in 2035 from an estimated 650 billion this year, the IEA said.
“The U.S. Department of Energy is waiting to review the results of a price impact study before dealing with the pending export applications,” the IEA said.
The agency assumes 93 percent of the U.S. gas remains available to meet domestic demand, with prices reaching $5.50 per million British thermal units by 2020. Front-month gas was at $3.52 per million Btu in New York today.
Diversifying sources of supply, can “accelerate movement toward more diversified trade flows, putting pressure on conventional gas suppliers and on traditional oil-linked pricing mechanisms for gas,” the IEA said.
Asia will ultimately seek lower prices for LNG, which is currently linked to oil in some sales contracts, and that pressure will be felt by the end of the decade, the IEA said.
The margin achievable by U.S. exporters to Japan in 2020 will shrink to $4.30 per million Btu, from $6.10 per million Btu in 2011, according to the report.
Global gas consumption may rise 19 percent by 2017 from 2010 levels as demand surges in Asia and the U.S. while Europe’s usage drops 1.6 percent, the agency said in June. China’s gas consumption will more than quadruple from last year’s level by 2035, boosted by regulatory reforms and policy support, the IEA said. Demand will also rise in India and the Middle East while growth in Japan is limited by higher prices and a focus on renewable sources and energy efficiency.
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