U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) continued to grow in 2020, averaging 6.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) on an annual basis, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Natural Gas Monthly. LNG exports increased 1.5 Bcf/d, or 31%, compared with 2019 levels. U.S. LNG exports were relatively high from January through May. In the summer months, they declined to record lows following record declines in international natural gas and LNG prices. By October, U.S. LNG exports started to increase again, despite brief interruptions caused by Hurricanes Laura and Delta. In November and December 2020, U.S. LNG exports reached all-time highs. U.S. LNG was exported to 38 countries, a record number, and Asia overtook Europe to become the main export destination in 2020.
LNG exports to Asia increased 67% in 2020 compared with 2019, accounting for almost half, or 3.1 Bcf/d, of all U.S. LNG exports. U.S. LNG exports to China averaged 0.6 Bcf/d in 2020—after China lowered tariffs on imports of LNG from the United States from 25% to 10%—the largest increase by country. In 2019, when tariffs were at 25%, only two U.S. LNG cargoes were shipped to China. India increased imports of U.S. LNG by an average of 0.1 Bcf/d, especially in the spring and summer when LNG prices were at record lows. U.S. LNG exports to Japan grew by 0.2 Bcf/d, primarily in the fourth quarter of 2020 because of seasonal winter demand.
U.S. LNG exports to Europe averaged 2.5 Bcf/d, an increase of 0.6 Bcf/d compared with 2019. Europe had been the main destination for U.S. LNG exports in 2019, accounting for 39% of U.S. LNG exports. In 2020, U.S. LNG exports to Turkey increased by 0.3 Bcf/d and to the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, and Lithuania by 0.1 Bcf/d each.
U.S. LNG exports to several countries in Latin America (Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Mexico) and the Middle East (Jordan and the United Arab Emirates) declined by a combined 0.5 Bcf/d in 2020 compared with 2019. U.S. LNG exports to Mexico declined by 0.3 Bcf/d because of COVID-19 mitigation efforts that reduced demand for natural gas. Growing U.S. exports by pipeline to Mexico also displaced more expensive LNG imports. In contrast, Brazil more than doubled its U.S. LNG imports—an average annual increase of 0.2 Bcf/d—as a result of drought conditions that limited hydroelectric power generation and increased demand for natural gas-fired power generation.
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In our International Energy Outlook 2021 (IEO2021) Reference case, we project that, absent significant changes in policy or technology, global energy consumption will increase nearly 50% over the next 30 years. Although petroleum and other liquid fuels will remain the world’s largest energy source in 2050, renewable energy sources, which include solar and wind, will grow to nearly the same level.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2021
Falling technology costs and government policies that provide incentives for renewables will lead to the growth of renewable electricity generation to meet growing electricity demand. As a result, renewables will be the fastest-growing energy source for both OECD and non-OECD countries. We project that coal and nuclear use will decrease in OECD countries, although the decrease will be more than offset by increased coal and nuclear use in non-OECD countries.
We project that global use of petroleum and other liquids will return to pre-pandemic (2019) levels by 2023, driven entirely by growth in non-OECD energy consumption. We do not project OECD liquid fuel use to return to pre-pandemic levels at any point in the next 30 years, in part because of increased fuel efficiency.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2021 Reference case
Note: Delivered consumption includes fuels directly used by the end-use sectors as well as electricity, excluding generation, transmission, and distribution losses.
We project that the industrial sector will increasingly consume petroleum liquids as feedstock in the expanding chemicals industry. In OECD countries, liquid fuel consumption in the industrial sector will grow three times as fast as liquid fuel consumption in the transportation sector.
Delivered electricity consumption will grow the most in the residential end-use sector. We project that in non-OECD countries, electricity will account for more than half of the energy used in households by 2050, compared with 33% in 2020. In non-OECD commercial buildings, we project that electricity will make up an even larger share of energy consumption in 2050, at 64%.
Globally, we project increased consumption of natural gas through 2050. The industrial sector is the main contributor to the growth in global natural gas consumption through 2050 in our Reference case, largely in non-OECD countries. Across OECD countries, gains in energy efficiency will reduce household natural gas use by 2050. The industrial sector will use the largest share of both natural gas and coal among all end-use sectors. Industrial coal use will expand fastest in non-OECD countries, where energy-intensive industries such as iron and steel production are expanding more quickly than in OECD countries.