Net U.S. imports of natural gas reached the lowest level seen since 1994, or 12 percent of total consumption, as the surge in shale gas activity continues to push gas production in the U.S. Lower 48 states, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported this week.
Dry natural gas production increased 3.3 percent compared with 2008 and was nearly 9 percent higher than in 2007. Recent gains in domestic production has made the United States is the largest producer of natural gas in the world. At the same time, U.S. domestic consumption decreased in 2009, which in turn contributed to a reduced demand for imports.
Although liquefied natural gas (LNG) gross imports increased almost 30 percent (from a 5-year low established in 2008), LNG remains a very small source of supplies for the United States, accounting for less than 2 percent of consumption.
Gross imports (including both natural gas transported by pipeline and LNG) continued to decline in 2009 after a relatively large decrease in 2008. As a result, gross imports were nearly 850 Bcf lower in 2009 than in 2007. Net imports, which reached a recent peak as a portion of consumption at 16 percent in 2007, represented only 12 percent of total domestic consumption, at a total of 2.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), in 2009. The decrease in net imports resulted from a decline in gross imports and an increase in gross exports.
With the increase in natural gas production, import and export prices were both more than 50 percent lower in 2009. Monthly average prices peaked in January and then declined significantly during the year to the lowest prices seen in the natural gas market since 2002.
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