Just as these new supplies come on line, worldwide demand is expected to drop as the global recession deepens.
Operators of these new facilities are unlikely to cut back production, however, so shipments of liquefied natural gas will most likely head to the deepest markets with the greatest amount of natural gas storage capacity — the United States.
“It’s completely counterintuitive,” said Murray Douglas, a global LNG analyst with Wood Mackenzie in Houston, who is predicting U.S. LNG imports will grow 30 percent to 456 billion cubic feet this year and to more than 1.1 trillion cubic feet by 2013.
“We don’t believe Asia and Europe will be in a position to absorb this new production, and the U.S. is the only market that can take it, that has a large amount of storage.”
The wave of imports might even be strong enough to challenge growing domestic natural gas production from various shale formations, including the Barnett Shale near Fort Worth and Fayetteville Shale in Arkansas.
“This can put pressure on U.S. gas prices and could delay the full development of some of the new shale projects,” Douglas said.
Other analysts, including Houston-based Waterborne Energy and Raleigh, N.C.-based Pan Eurasia Enterprises, agree that an American gas import surge may be coming.
Even the Department of Energy updated its LNG import predictions for 2009 recently to include the possibility of such a surge.