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The Year Ahead

The U.S. Unleashes the Full Power of Shale

A wave of American LNG exports hits the market.
An LNG carrier ship docked at the Cheniere Energy terminal in Louisiana in February 2016, ahead of the first shipment of liquefied natural gas to Brazil.

An LNG carrier ship docked at the Cheniere Energy terminal in Louisiana in February 2016, ahead of the first shipment of liquefied natural gas to Brazil.

Photographer: Lindsey Janies/Bloomberg

Sometime in 2017, for the first time in 60 years, the U.S. will likely sell more natural gas to the world than it buys. Next year, capacity to export liquefied natural gas from the lower 48 states, chilled to –260F so it can be shipped by tanker, will more than double, to 3.2 billion cubic feet per day. That will add to huge increases in the volume of gas already being piped to Mexico and could boost exports to foreign countries to about 9 percent of total U.S. gas production.

A lot of those new exports will go to Latin America. Since the first LNG tanker left the Louisiana coast in February 2016, 34 cargoes have departed through early October, with two-thirds of them going to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico. Colombia will be a new buyer in 2017; the country is on track to begin importing LNG from a new floating regasification vessel by the end of this year. Shipments to Asia are also set to rise as India increases LNG imports amid low prices.