Recent data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that last year the U.S. exported more natural gas than it imported. This is a significant milestone because the last time this happened, in 1957, Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House, cars had big tail fins, and the brand-new Frisbee was all the rage.
As recently as a decade ago, the U.S. was thought to be running out of natural gas supplies, and had started building terminals to import liquefied natural gas, or LNG. But innovations like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have completely flipped the script. Today, America has more than enough natural gas to meet its own needs and to export gas to customers around the world.
Some of that natural gas is exported via pipelines to Mexico and Canada. But a growing portion of it is exported as LNG. The gas is liquefied by cooling it to -260 degrees Fahrenheit, reducing its volume by a factor of 600. It’s then loaded and shipped aboard specialized LNG vessels. The Sabine Pass terminal, one of two U.S. LNG export terminals, was originally built as an import facility but later retrofitted to export LNG.
Here are five facts and figures driving America’s rise as a natural gas export champion.
1.94 billion cubic feet a day
That’s how much LNG the U.S. shipped overseas last year – four times the amount it exported in 2016.
Annually, LNG exports could add more than $20 billion to the U.S. economy and create up to 35,200 jobs.
Combined, Mexico, China and South Korea purchased more than half of all U.S. LNG last year.
Right now the U.S. has two operating LNG export terminals: Sabine Pass (Louisiana) and Cove Point (Maryland). Under construction, however, are five other terminals, which by the end of next year could ramp up the country’s export capacity to 9.6 billion cubic feet per day.
81.7 billion cubic feet per day
That’s the amount of natural gas the Energy Information Administration forecasts the U.S. will produce this year, up from 73.6 billion cubic feet per day last year. U.S. consumption will trail behind, averaging 78.8 billion cubic feet per day. The difference is a surplus and itself a strong indication that U.S. natural gas exports aren’t slowing down anytime soon.