EC The U.S. Maintains Its Natural Gas Dominance

This is the fourth article in a series on BP’s recently-released Statistical Review of World Energy 2021. Previous articles provided an overview of this year’s Review, an examination of the data on carbon emissions, and a look at oil supply and demand trends.

Today I delve into the data on natural gas production and consumption.

The U.S. had dominated global natural gas production until the 1980s, at which time it ceded the lead to Russia. The Middle East has also grown its natural gas production at a rapid pace over the past 50 years and was on pace to take the global lead.

Natural gas production had been in decline in the U.S. until the fracking boom that began to boost production in 2005. Production grew in the U.S. by an astounding 86% from 2005 to 2020, which pushed the U.S. back into the global lead among natural gas producers.

Natural Gas Consumption

U.S. consumption has grown rapidly as power plants have turned increasingly to natural gas as both a replacement for coal-fired power and a backup for new renewable capacity.

The net impact of growing natural gas supplies and conversion of power plants has caused natural gas to become the fastest-growing fossil fuel. Over the past decade, global natural gas consumption has grown at an average annual rate of 2.9%, versus 1.5% for oil and 0.9% for coal.

Production fell sharply in 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The only comparable decline came during the 2008 housing crisis, after which consumption growth returned to its normal trend.

The U.S. has consistently been the world’s top natural gas consumer since 1965. In 2020, the Top 10 consumers were exactly the same as in 2019, except Mexico and Germany switched positions.

Within the Top 10, China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia all increased consumption from 2019.

Natural Gas Production

Among all countries, the U.S. moved into the lead for natural gas production in 2011 and has since substantially grown that lead. In 2020, U.S. production declined by 1.9% in response to the Covid-19 pandemic — which negatively impacted gas prices — but the U.S. retained a commanding 23.7% share of global production.

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