EIA: US to become net energy exporter in outlook to 2050

According to the US Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2017 (AEO 2017), which has projections through 2050, the US will become a net energy exporter in most cases as petroleum liquid imports fall and natural gas exports rise.

The eight cases considered in AEO2017 incorporate different assumptions that reflect market, technology, resource, and policy uncertainties that affect energy markets.

In the “high oil and gas resource and technology case,” exports are highest, and rise throughout the projection period, as favorable geology and technological developments result in the production of oil and gas at lower costs.

The “high oil price” case provides favorable economic conditions for crude oil and gas producers while restraining US consumption, enabling the most rapid transition to net-exporter status.

However, in all cases but the “high oil and gas resource technology” case, which assumes substantial improvements in production technology and more favorable resource availability, US energy production declines in the 2030s, which slows or reverses projected growth in net energy exports.

Energy consumption outlook

Energy consumption is consistent across all AEO cases, bounded by the “high economic growth” and “low economic growth” cases. In the “reference” case, total energy consumption increases 5% between 2016 and 2040. Because a significant portion of energy consumption is related to economic activity, energy consumption is projected to increase by 11% from 2016 to 2040 in the “high economic growth” case and remain nearly flat in the “low economic growth” case.

Although the “low oil and gas resource and technology” and “high oil and gas resource and technology” cases affect the production of energy, the impact on US energy consumption is less significant.

In all AEO cases, the electric power sector remains the largest consumer of primary energy. Gas use increases more than other fuel sources in terms of quantity of energy consumed, led by demand from the industrial and electric power sectors. Petroleum consumption remains relatively flat as increases in energy efficiency offset growth in the transportation and industrial activity measures. Coal consumption decreases as coal loses market share to gas and renewable generation in the electric power sector. On a percentage basis, renewable energy rises the fastest because capital costs fall with increased penetration and because current state and federal policies encourage its use. Liquid biofuels growth is constrained by relatively flat transportation energy use and blending limitations.

Energy production outlook

Unlike energy consumption, which varies less across AEO cases, projections of energy production vary widely. Production growth is dependent on technology, resource, and market conditions.

Energy production ranges from nearly flat in the “low oil and gas resource and technology” case to growth of nearly 50% over 2016–40 in the “high oil and gas resource and technology” case. The “high oil and gas resource and technology” case assumes higher estimates of unproved Alaska resources; offshore Lower 48 resources; and onshore Lower 48 tight oil, tight gas, and shale gas resources than in the “reference” case. This case also assumes lower costs of producing these resources.

Total energy production increases by more than 20% in the “reference” case from 2016 through 2040, led by increases in crude oil and natural gas production.

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions decline in most AEO cases, with the highest emissions projected in the “no Clean Power Plan” case. All AEO2017 cases except the “no Clean Power Plan” case assume the CPP is implemented.

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