The US is encouraging African countries to consider importing its abundant supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG), as it expects its production to more than double within the next few years.
US Department of Energy assistant secretary Steven Winberg this week said African countries should consider importing US gas while they prepare to develop their own natural gas production.
“Currently, the US has the capacity to produce seven-billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. By the end of 2020, this will go up to ten-billion cubic feet. We’re expecting to have 15.5-billion cubic feet a day within the next few years,” he told a media briefing during Africa Oil Week, in Cape Town.
He said the amount of available LNG was expected to eventually soar to 35-billion cubic feet a day if there was sufficient demand.
The US is the world’s largest producer of natural gas and falling prices, along with surging production, have created the opportunity for exports.
LNG exports from the US took off in 2016. As of July 2019, US export terminals have loaded cargos that were sent to 36 countries on five continents, mostly from large-scale facilities. Small shipments have been exported since 2016 in cryogenic ISO containers, to Barbados, the Bahamas and Haiti, the US Department of Energy said in an October 2019 report.
Winberg said 2007/8 had seen a shale gas revolution, but that another one may be on its way if researchers can tap into how to increase productivity.
Currently, the US government is deepening its research into hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, to find out why there is so much variability between frack stages in the production of shale gas. It is using high-performance computing to see how it can boost productivity.
“We need to know why one frack stage produces, while another doesn’t. If we can start to see below the surface, we will be able to increase productivity. It has the potential to create another shale gas revolution. We may be able to increase productivity without drilling new wells.”
Winberg said the robust position of the US shale gas market had been in its favour when Iran attacked two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia in September this year, wiping out more than half of its output. He said this had reflected in the oil price, which returned to its original position within days.
“Other than a blip on the Monday, the market kept chugging along. It speaks volumes as to what is happening in the US shale revolution. If that had occurred a decade ago, we would have seen a fly-up in oil prices, and they would have stayed up. The fact that we will be a net exporter of energy next year, I think reduces the impact that those types of attacks can have.”
Winberg also reflected US President Donald Trump’s views on fossil fuels.
“Just about every forecast you look at, 80% of our energy needs will come from fossil fuels for the next 20 to 30 years, so eliminating fossil fuels from the world energy stage is impractical. What is practical is to develop the technology to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and create overall efficiency.”
Winberg said the US was committed to supporting African countries with technology and capital to develop the energy sector and bring electricity to more people on the continent.