U.S. natural gas production was 2.56 Tcf in December and totaled 29.77 Tcf in 2012, the seventh consecutive year-over-year increase, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Monthly Energy Review for March.

Marketed production (25.31 Tcf, compared with 24.04 Tcf in 2011) and dry gas production (24.05 Tcf, compared with 22.90 Tcf) were also up in 2012, EIA said. Total gross production of domestic natural gas has increased steadily from 23.46 Tcf in 2005, reaching 26.82 Tcf in 2010 and 28.48 Tcf in 2011, the agency noted.

Natural gas exports also increased in 2012 year to year for the seventh consecutive year, to 1.62 Tcf from 1.51 Tcf in 2011. Not coincidentally, net imports of natural gas were down, totaling 1.52 Tcf in 2012, compared with 1.96 Tcf in 2011 and 2.60 Tcf in 2010. Net imports have decreased each year since 2007 when they peaked at 3.79 Tcf.

Natural gas from both the United States and Western Canada will feed about 30 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to international markets by 2025, according to one LNG analyst (see NGI, Feb. 25). The largest importer of U.S. natural gas currently is Canada, which took in 870 Bcf in the first 11 months of 2011, followed by Mexico (568 Bcf) and Japan (14 Bcf), EIA said.

A study conducted by NERA Economic Consulting and paid for by the U.S. Department of Energy concluded that LNG exports would be supportive of the U.S. economy in just about any amount, the more the better (see NGI, Dec. 10, 2012). Other studies have found that keeping U.S. natural gas at home would yield more economic bang per molecule than liquefying and exporting it (see NGI, March 18).

Domestic consumption was on the rise, reaching 25.46 Tcf in 2012, compared with 24.39 Tcf in 2011 and 24.09 Tcf in 2010, EIA said. Residential sector consumption was 4.18 Tcf during the year, down sharply from 4.71 Tcf in 2011, and commercial consumption was down as well, reaching 2.91 Tcf in 2012, compared with 3.15 Tcf a year earlier.

Natural gas use in the electric power sector, on the other hand, surged to 9.14 Tcf in 2012, up 20.7% from 7.57 Tcf in 2011, EIA said.

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