Worldwide demand for liquefied natural gas, or LNG, rose by 12.5% to hit 359 million tons last year, according to Royal Dutch Shell's annual LNG Outlook report.
Citing forecasts, Shell said that LNG demand was expected to double by 2040 to 700 million tons, with natural gas set to play "a growing role in shaping a lower-carbon energy system."
Shell added that LNG imports in China grew by 14% last year, while Bangladesh, India and Pakistan saw imports reach 36 million tons, representing growth of 19%.
"The global LNG market continued to evolve in 2019 with demand increasing for LNG and natural gas in power and non-power sectors," Maarten Wetselaar, integrated gas and new energies director at Shell, said in a statement issued Thursday. "Record supply investments will meet people's growing need for the most flexible and cleanest-burning fossil fuel," he added.
"While we see weak market conditions today due to record new supply coming in, two successive mild winters and the Coronavirus situation, we expect equilibrium to return, driven by a combination of continued demand growth and reduction in new supply coming on-stream until the mid-2020s."
LNG refers to natural gas that has been cooled down to turn it into a liquid. This makes it easier to both store and transport. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the "volume of the liquid is 600 times smaller than the gaseous form."
While natural gas is a fossil fuel, the EIA states that burning it for energy "results in fewer emissions of nearly all types of air pollutants and carbon dioxide (CO2) than burning coal or petroleum products to produce an equal amount of energy."
In 2019, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that "coal-to-gas switching" had saved approximately 500 million tons of CO2 since 2010.
According to the IEA, natural gas consumption grew by 4.6% in 2018, with the organization stating that 80% of growth since 2010 has been concentrated in the U.S., China and Middle East. The IEA has said that a "shale gas revolution" in the U.S. is "in full swing."
According to estimates from the EIA, dry shale gas production in the U.S. amounted to approximately 20.95 trillion cubic feet in 2018. This equates to roughly 69% of dry natural gas production in the U.S. for 2018, the EIA says.