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North America NatGas Production to Reach Nearly 140 Bcf/d by 2040, Says ExxonMobil

North America's natural gas production is projected to grow by about 75% from 2010 to 2040 to around 140 Bcf/d, as unconventional output nearly triples, ExxonMobil Corp. said Tuesday. Within five years, North America should surpass the Russia/Caspian region as the largest gas-producing region in the world.

The supermajor issued its annual energy forecast, Outlook for Energy, on Tuesday, its long-term global view of energy demand and supply. ExxonMobil uses the guide to help with business strategy. In 2013, it invested close to $40 billion in long-term global energy projects.

According to ExxonMobil's team of economists, engineers and scientists, oil is expected to remain the No. 1 energy source through 2040, with demand rising by almost 30%, but global gas demand will surge 65% from 2010, the largest of any energy source, led by North American gains.

Significant growth in the global middle class, expansion of emerging economies and an additional two billion people in the world will contribute to a 35% increase in energy demand by 2040.

Oil will continue to be the No. 1 global fuel on growth in commercial transportation and the chemical industry's need for feedstock, the research found. However, natural gas will surpass coal as a wide range of consumers, particularly utilities and industrial manufacturers, choose it for its low emissions and its versatility as a fuel and feedstock. It also will gain market share as a transportation fuel.

Technologies to extract unconventional gas also are being applied in other regions, particularly Asia Pacific and Latin America, but the pace and scale of growth won't match North America because of differences in geology, governing policies, supporting infrastructure, market maturity and development economics.

The Asia Pacific region should see the fastest rate of growth in gas production of any place in the world by 2040 and is expected to account for 80% of production growth after 2025. Globally, two-thirds of the increase in natural gas demand through 2040 is forecast to be met by unconventional gas.

"By 2040, unconventional supplies are expected to account for 35% of global gas production, up from 15% in 2010," according to the report. "Nonetheless, investments to maintain and expand conventional gas production also are critical to meeting the world's demand for natural gas."

Conventional gas production should continue to account for the majority of growth in Russia/Caspian, the Middle East and Africa. Conventional production is expected to grow in all regions except North America and Europe.

Several major trading trends are emerging for natural gas through 2040. Asia Pacific likely will overtake Europe as the world's largest gas importer; North America is expected to emerge as a liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter before 2020; and Russia/Caspian is forecast to remain a significant gas supplier.

"Through 2040, LNG trade is expected to more than triple to nearly 100 Bcf/d," ExxonMobil said. "Most of this growth will serve existing demand in Europe and rapidly growing gas demand in Asia; however, Latin America and Africa also are expected to see expanded LNG imports."

The importance of unconventional gas to North America will grow in the coming decades, according to the report.

"By 2040, unconventional production is expected to meet 85% or more of North American gas demand. Gas demand is forecast to rise in North America through 2040 due in part to electricity generators and manufacturers taking advantage of abundant, cost-competitive unconventional gas supply."

Gas demand in North America is projected to increase by more than 40% from 2010 to 2040.

"Even so, the unconventional gas production outlook is so robust that supply is forecast to exceed local demand by a wide margin," researchers said. "By 2025, we expect North America to be a significant natural gas exporter; by 2040, North America could even rival Asia Pacific's LNG exports.

"This shift, unthinkable a decade ago, is a remarkable example of the combined potential of technology and trade to enhance global energy and economic prosperity."

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