The Road to Net Zero notwithstanding, U.S. natural gas production and subsequent liquefied natural gas exports will continue to grow significantly over the coming decades, according to a recent long-term outlook by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The EIA’s report projects that domestic natural gas production could increase 15 percent to 42.1 trillion cubic feet (TCF) per year by 2050. The real driver of this sustained growth is not U.S. gas-fired power or heating demand, but a sharp growth curve in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.
Overseas demand for U.S. LNG could push exports to 10 TCF by 2050. Much of this volume will be met by production in Haynesville Formation and Permian Basin of the Gulf Coast and U.S. Southwest regions, respectively.
Those natural gas plays, revolutionized by a combination of directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, are close to LNG infrastructure along the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast liquefaction and export terminals. Natural gas production is chilled to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit (160 Celsius) which converts the gas form to a liquid state and makes it more stable for shipping.
Countries and companies from Asia, Africa and Europe, among others, are cutting long-term supply deals with U.S. LNG suppliers such as Cheneire Energy and others.
By 2050, according to the EIA, Haynesville gas production could exceed 12 trillion cubic feet annually, about 50 percent higher than current levels. The Permian Basin gas plays could yield a similar amount of annual output, the EIA graphic shows.
Natural gas is the top fuel resource for electric power generation in the U.S., accounting for close to 40 percent of the overall mix, according to the EIA. Coal-fired power still accounts for about 22 percent, far down from the one-time lead due to many plant closures as utilities pursue decarbonization goals.
Natural gas generation emits about half of the carbon dioxide of coal-fired power, according to reports. It also can be moved by pipeline to feed not only utility-scale generating units, but also on-site power and backup generators.