On the production side, U.S. shale gas is performing strongly — but a trade war with China and a lack of investment projects in the sector could be "economically disruptive", according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
"Without additional investments into American liquified natural gas (LNG) projects, the American gas industry will have to keep gas on the ground, which would be a waste of capital, economically quite disruptive," Laszlo Varro, chief economist at the IEA, told CNBC's Steve Sedgwick at the GasTech conference in Barcelona on Tuesday.
U.S. natural gas is being produced at record levels thanks to the shale revolution, brought about by the extraction technique known as fracking. And the booming demand for LNG in Asian markets, China in particular, should mean massive business for U.S. gas exporters.
But major bottlenecks in export capacity lie ahead due to global trade tensions and a lack of sufficient investment into projects for export infrastructure, the IAE has warned.
"If there is no export infrastructure development, then a large amount of American gas will simply stay on the ground," Varro explained. "Because given that the domestic energy system is not going to be able to absorb that much gas domestically, if there are no export projects, then American gas prices will have to go down to a very low level to shut production down."
Energy industry forecasters predict a global demand for 500 million tons of LNG by 2030. That demand will be coming from Asia's emerging economies, in particular, with gas as a major part of China's growth plan in terms of energy consumption. Forty-five percent of China's natural gas will need to be imported, and the U.S. is expected to supply a vast amount of that need.
But this week's announcement that the White House is raising tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods does not bode well for prospects for trade, consequently stunting support for export infrastructure investments.