United States may become net energy exporter by 2026, EIA reports

The tanker Maria sails out of the Port of Corpus Christi after discharging crude oil at the Citgo refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Eddie Seal | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The United States could become a net exporter of energy by 2026 as domestic production rebounds and demand at home remains flat, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Thursday in a new report.

In its Annual Energy Outlook 2017, the EIA sees a surge in natural gas exports and improvement in the trade balance of petroleum products causing the United States to become a net energy exporter by 2026. It would be the first time the nation held that status since 1953.

As a net exporter, the United States would still import oil, natural gas and other energy sources, but it would send out more of these products produced at home than it takes in from foreign sources.

Yes, the U.S. could be completely — I think the phrase used at one time was energy independent — in certain cases. Even in the reference case we're a net exporter still of energy," EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski said during a webcast from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

The EIA's reference case is its benchmark scenario, which reflects current price forecasts and market trends, as well as planned government policies.

The growing natural gas exports will be driven in the coming years by pipeline exports to Mexico and later by shipments of liquefied natural gas to other foreign markets, according to the EIA.

In the reference case, the United States will remain a slight net importer of oil and petroleum products over the projected period through 2040, the EIA said.

However, Sieminski said Thursday it would not surprise him if the EIA projects the United States will be a net oil exporter in its reference when it updates projections in the next few years. That will largely depend on if technology keeps improving.

The United States has experienced a revolution in oil and gas production thanks to technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, a method that involves pumping water, minerals and chemicals underground to free fossil fuels from shale rock.

The EIA sees the United States remaining a net exporter of coal, but exports of the fossil fuel are not forecast to increase. Instead, foreign competition located closer to major demand centers such as India will pick up more business.

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