In 2015 America’s net imports of natural gas dropped to their lowest level since 1986, an encouraging demonstration of the shale revolution’s extraordinary ability to shore up U.S. energy security. The EIA reports:
U.S natural gas net imports fell to 2.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2015, continuing a decline that began in 2007, when net imports of natural gas exceeded 10 Bcf/d. While both U.S. natural gas consumption and production have increased in recent years, natural gas production has grown slightly faster, resulting in a decline in net imports. Increasing domestic production of natural gas has reduced U.S. reliance on imported natural gas and kept U.S. natural gas prices relatively low. […]
Most U.S. imports of natural gas come by pipeline from Canada. A small and declining amount of imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) comes mainly from Trinidad. Most U.S. exports of natural gas are sent by pipeline to Mexico and Canada. The United States also exported LNG and compressed natural gas to several countries, but these volumes were relatively minimal in 2015.
This is big. Starting in the late 1980s, American demand for natural gas started to rise well beyond what we could source domestically, and our natural gas trade balance skewed heavily into the realm of net importing. Over the past eight years, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal well drilling have allowed companies to gain access to vast reserves of natural gas trapped in shale rock formations, and the resulting flood of new supplies has cut our net imports by roughly 75 percent.
And this trend isn’t done yet, either. The EIA expects America to become a net exporter of natural gas starting sometime in the middle of next year, and when that happens the U.S. will enjoy another milestone moment in its 21st century energy revolution, all courtesy of fracking.