U.S. importers bought more but paid less for Canadian natural gas last year, according to the 2016 annual trade record from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The volume of Canadian pipeline exports south into to the United States increased last year by 11% to 3 Tcf, or 8.2 Bcf/d from 2.7 Tcf or 7.4 Bcf/d in 2015.
But the annual average price fetched at the border by Canadian gas fell by 23% last year to US$2.14/MMBtu from US$2.78/MMBtu in 2015.
Trade volumes grew in both directions. U.S. pipeline exports north to Canada grew by 11% to 771 Bcf last year from 695 Bcf in 2015.
The annual average price for northbound U.S. deliveries into Canada dropped -- but by less than for southbound cross-border sales -- by losing 17% to US$2.56/MMBtu last year from US$3.09/MMBtu in 2015.
U.S. exports go to the highest-priced Canadian markets in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Canadian exports go to variably priced destinations across the United States.
The trading volume record shows U.S. gas merchants are catching up with Canadians, who have for decades been the most active international traders in North America and the world’s second-biggest gas exporters after Russia.
Total U.S. exports jumped by 30% last year to 2.3 Tcf or 6.3 Bcf/d from 1.8 Tcf or 4.9 Bcf/d in 2015.
U.S cross-border pipeline deliveries south into Mexico grew by 29% to 1.4 Tcf or 3.7 Bcf/d from 1 Tcf or 2.9 Bcf/d in 2015.
The annual average price of U.S. gas exports to Mexico dropped by 6% to US$2.64/MMBtu last year from US$3.00 in 2015.
The volume growth star of the North American gas trade scene in 2016 was U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
U.S. exporters, inaugurating LNG shipments from new terminals, sold 183.2 Bcf or 500 MMcf/d last year, up 1,013% from 11.6 Bcf or negligible daily volumes in 2015.
The new overseas traffic in U.S.-sourced gas traveled in 26 tankers that sailed to Chile, China, Egypt, India, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey, according to DOE.
The tanker traffic fetched far better prices than the pipeline gas trade with Canada and Mexico, despite downward pressure exerted by the increased supply on overseas markets.
U.S. LNG exports went for US$4.55/MMBtu last year, down 39%from US$7.42/MMBtu in 2015 but still nearly triple the value of U.S. pipeline gas deliveries to Canada and Mexico.
In the Canadian gas capital, Calgary, producers and analysts are voicing hope that growing U.S. overseas and Mexican exports will eventually increase sales enough to revive prices depressed by the “shale gale” supply glut for nearly 10 years.
At industry conferences Calgary gas merchants report receiving nibbles from U.S. dealers indicating they may buy more Canadian production to fulfill commitments to U.S. customers as LNG sales grow in response to relatively strong overseas prices. The Canadians see an encouraging early sign that a positive trend may be starting in a supply arrangement disclosed by Calgary-based Seven Generations Energy Ltd. and U.S. LNG export terminal operator Cheniere Energy Inc.