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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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U.S. To Become Net Oil And Gas Exporter In 5 Years

Oil tanker

The United States will become a net oil and gas exporter by 2022, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in this year’s edition of its Annual Energy Outlook. Slower domestic demand, along with growth in natural gas, oil, and oil product production will drive the transformation, the EIA said.

That sounds like President Trump’s dream of energy dominance come true, but of course, this would only happen under certain circumstances, as the EIA notes in the beginning of the report. For starters, the forecasting model the authority uses stipulates annual economic growth of between 1.5 percent and 2.6 percent between 2017 and 2050, with energy demand varying between flat and growing by 0.7 percent.

Another important stipulation in the model is the growing adoption of renewable energy and natural gas instead of oil. These are trends we can already see, and they will likely only intensify, despite the 30-percent import tariff on Chinese solar modules, which caused some to fear that the U.S. solar industry would suffer a severe blow. While the tariffs may be a deterrent to the solar industry, it will get a boost from favorable federal and state renewable energy policies, tax incentives, and lower costs thanks to technological improvements.

Oil and gas production will also continue to grow along with renewables, although oil production growth will stagnate around 2032, according to the EIA forecast. As demand at home slackens, oil and gas will have to find other buyers. Higher oil prices, the EIA notes, will motivate higher exports and lower local consumption, so the country could become a net oil and gas exporter even before 2022 if prices are high enough. Related: The Oil Bubble Has Burst. What Now?

Yet, this state of affairs will not continue for long: After 2038, exports will begin to decline because of the lack of any remaining space for technological improvements that would enhance its competitiveness on global markets, and also because of the depletion of the lowest-cost, highest-quality production assets. By 2045, the EIA estimates, the U.S. will once again become a net importer of oil and gas.

Now, the EIA’s report does not detail the main destinations for these exports, but we are already seeing U.S. producers expand their international presence. China and India are both likely to be top destinations for both oil and gas, but especially gas. Both countries are set on shifting their oil dependence to gas dependence due to its lower emissions and price. The competition will be intense, however, which should spur more technological improvements to lower prices and boost American oil and gas competitiveness.

Geopolitical development could also contribute to this growing presence. At the end of January, the first-ever cargo of U.S. condensate reached the United Arab Emirates, one of OPEC’s top producers. The UAE has apparently been hit by a shortage of condensate, because of the Saudi-led blockade against Qatar — its main supplier of the light petroleum liquid.

The United States will continue to import crude oil, as its refineries need different blends to process into fuels; the heavy grades that go into these blends are typically imported. Yet, after it surrendered the top spot in consumption to China last year, the U.S. could continue sliding down the consumers’ list under the EIA’s scenarios.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh G Salameh on February 11 2018 said:
    Claims by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) are becoming farcical by the day. They are now claiming that the United States will become a net oil exporter (self-sufficient in oil) by 2022. To achieve this, they stipulate an annual economic growth of between 1.5% and 2.6% between 2017 and 2050 with energy demand varying between flat and growing by 0.7%. If their projections for US oil production change from week to week, how reliable could their projections be 23 years into the future.

    Among other claims made very recently by the EIA is that US oil production is projected to average 10.5 million barrels a day (mbd) in 2018 and could even hit 11 mbd by December 2018.

    But an MIT study published in December 2017 reached the conclusion that the US vastly overstates oil production forecasts and that the EIA has been exaggerating the effect of fracking technology on well productivity. The fact that US oil production between January and November 2017 grew at a far more modest monthly average of 1.3% according to the MIT study, indicates that the EIA’s weekly forecasts could very well be overstating US oil production between 700,000 barrels a day (b/d) and 1 mbd.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • Steve Bull on February 12 2018 said:
    To paraphrase a quote by physicist Niels Bohr: "Making predictions are difficult, especially if they're about the future." The EIA's guesstimate that the US will become a 'net' exporter of oil and/or gas requires all the ducks to line up in a row just so, and the likelihood of that occurring while possible is exceedingly unlikely--particularly if the push to re-industrialise America comes to fruition. The EIA is not known for accurate predictions and that should be considered carefully when pushing the narrative that US energy independence is 'just around the corner'. If the US were so sure of its impending energy bonanza, they would perhaps stop spending trillions of dollars and hundreds of lives invading and occupying Middle Eastern nations...

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