The current status of natural gas production, consumption and exports is in a state of flux brought about by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

How much LNG (liquified natural gas) has the United States exported, and can the US play a leading role going forward?

The US produced 34,149 Bcf of dry natural gas in 2021, and consumed 30,284 Bcf. The US exported 6,653 Bcf, of which 3,560 Bcf was LNG, while importing 2,808 Bcf. (Source EIA)

  • LNG exports of 3,560 Bcf, averaged 9.8 Bcf/d in 2021.

America’s LNG export potential

But LNG export capability will grow in 2022 to at least 11.4 Bcf/d, an increase of 1.6 Bcf/d.

The accompanying chart shows expected LNG export capacity by the end of 2022.

Exports in 2022 will be from these existing LNG export terminals:

  1. Kenai, AK: 0.2 Bcfd

  1. Sabine, LA: 4.55 Bcfd

  2. Cove Point, MD: 0.82 Bcfd

  3. Corpus Christi, TX: 2.40 Bcfd

  4. Hackberry, LA: 2.15 Bcfd

  5. Elba Island, GA: 350 MMcfd

  6. Freeport,TX: 2.13 Bcfd

(The italicized locations are along the Gulf Coast.)

America’s LNG export potential 1

The following chart shows future LNG export capacity, with all of the new capacity, other than Jacksonville, Florida, being along the Gulf Coast.

If built, this will add 28.72 Bcf/d of export capacity, requiring an additional 10,482 Bcf of new annual production.

In total, dry natural gas production will have to increase by 11,066 Bcf, which means increasing production by one-third, or 32%.

America’s LNG export potential 2

Where will the new production come from?

This map shows where natural gas is being produced.

Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma are on or near the Gulf Coast, while Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia are far removed.

Here is dry natural gas production for 2020, in Bcf, for each of these regions:

Gulf Coast

  • Texas ……….. 7,990

  • Oklahoma ….. 2,528

  • Louisiana …… 3,181

Appalachia

  • Pennsylvania.. 7,050

  • Ohio ………… 2,330

  • West Virginia.. 2,379

Obtaining the additional 11,066 Bcf requires doubling production from the three states closest to the Gulf Coast terminals, or, building pipelines from Appalachia to take advantage of the huge natural gas resources in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.

While pipelines from Appalachia are obviously needed to bring natural gas to where it can be exported, new pipeline capacity will also have to be built in and around Texas to transport natural gas to the LNG export terminals.

But none of this can be achieved if the war against fossil fuels by the Biden administration is allowed to continue.

  • First, there is the effort to stop the issuance of leases and drilling permits. While this is now being litigated, it effectively impedes the development of new natural gas wells.

  • Then there is FERC’s effort to include climate change when determining whether new pipelines can be built. While this policy has been revised as a “request for comments”, it demonstrates FERC’s intent to obstruct the construction of new pipelines.

  • Finally, there are the legal efforts by environmental groups to stop pipeline construction. Several pipelines have been blocked, such as the one to New York State. Now, the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines have also been blocked by environmental groups, which isolates the Marcellus and Utica shale formations and prevents natural gas from flowing to the Southern States and LNG export terminals.

The United States has abundant natural gas reserves

It should be noted that the Marcellus and Utica shale formations are exceptionally large and allow the United States to export large quantities of natural gas far into the future.

America’s LNG export potential 3

The South Pars natural gas field in the Persian Gulf is currently the largest known field in the world, with other fields compared to it.

South Pars Natural Gas Field in Persian Gulf

Courtesy International Petroleum Encyclopedia

While the USGS estimated Appalachian reserves at 214 Tcf in 2019, other recent studies—such as the one from West Virginia University— suggest reserves could be several times greater.

Appalachia alone, could equal or surpass the South Pars field.

If so, the United States would have the largest natural gas reserves in the world.

The United States could export natural gas from the Appalachian fields, using its existing and proposed LNG terminals (already approved by FERC), for several decades, while still supplying the United States with natural gas from other fields in Texas, Oklahoma, etc.

But this will only be possible if new pipelines are built to transport natural gas to where it can be processed and exported.

Pipelines must be built, otherwise the United Sates will not be able to export natural gas without raising the price of natural gas domestically and burdening Americans with higher costs for heating and electricity.

America’s LNG export potential 4

Conclusion

During WWII, America was the Arsenal of Democracy.

Today, the United States can be the source of energy for the free world.

To provide the energy needed to support freedom around the world, the war on fossil fuels must be abandoned. Every effort must be made to remove unnecessary regulations that obstruct drilling, fracking and pipeline construction.

For example, the United States can replace all the Russian natural gas being supplied to Europe. But it will take a few years, with increased drilling and pipeline construction.

With new pipelines, the United Sates can provide the world with the natural gas it needs without harming Americans.

Author

  • Donn is an engineer and retired senior executive of the General Electric Company who spent his career in the power sector. He led organizations that provided engineering services for GE’s large electrical apparatus and spearheaded the establishment of GE subsidiary companies around the world. Donn actively participated in providing engineering services to a wide range of industries, including electric utilities, steel, mining, and transportation.