Impact of U.S. shale gas development on the global gas balance
12:00 - 13:00
Until a few years ago it was believed that the United States would become the first importer of gas in the world, with gas imports growing by the year. Today, the exploitation of shale gas deposits has unexpectedly rendered the United States gas independent, putting the country in a strong position with respect to large gas-producing nations, shifting the global geopolitical balance in energy supply.
The advent of shale gas in the U.S. is the result of technological innovation which has led to the development of horizontal drilling systems, and favorable market conditions characterized by higher gas prices.
The later fall in U.S. gas prices at historic lows, and the consequent increase in domestic demand at the expense of other energy sources such as coal, resulted in "revolutionary effects" not only in the U.S. but also in the gas global market.
Despite that Asia still suffers the effects of the nuclear crisis with a strong demand for gas, some of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) volumes initially directed to the U.S., were also diverted to Europe. This phenomenon, combined with the economic downturn and the reduction in European coal prices, has generated an oversupply of gas in Europe.
Such effects may be amplified by the decisions of the U.S. government with respect to the granting of additional licenses to export LNG in so-called “non-FTA” countries. Six projects are currently undergoing evaluation for approval by the U.S. FERC, for a total capacity of about 90 million tons per year, which together with the volumes of the Sabine Pass project approved in 2011, match up to about 40% of existing global LNG production capacity.
Finally, other shale gas basins have been discovered in other countries such as Argentina, China, and Poland but these are unlikely to follow the same pace of development or have a similar impact on the global gas market as did the U.S. shale gas.