U.S. natural gas production, consumption and exports are expected to rise through 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. U.S. dry natural gas production is projected to rise 11% to 81.3 billion cubic feet per day in 2018 and surpass a previous record set in 2015. In 2019, the production is expected to increase 3.9% to 84.5 billion cubic feet per day.
Natural gas consumption is projected to rise 7% to 79.7 billion cubic feet per day in 2018. Consumption is expected to fall slightly in 2019. The rise in 2018 can be attributed to cold winter weather earlier this year contributing to strong residential and commercial heating demand and warmer summer temperatures leading to an increased use of natural gas in the electric power sector.
In 2017, the United States became a net exporter of natural gas for the first time in 60 years. Exports of pipeline and liquefied natural gas are projected to rise, and imports, nearly all of which are pipeline imports from Canada, will be flat. Net natural gas exports are projected to increase from 2 billion cubic feet per day in 2018 to 5.5 billion cubic feet per day in 2019.
Increased natural gas production should lead to a rise in production of hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL), including butanes, propane and natural gasoline. Natural gas plants are expected to produce an additional 600,000 barrels per day of HGLs in 2018 and an additional 400,000 barrels per day of HGLs in 2019. Ethane is expected to account for more than half of the increase.
Rising demand for U.S. petrochemicals and exports should lead to increased ethane production. In 2019, combined net exports of all HLGs are projected to rise by 500,000 barrels per day, and propane exports are expected to comprise of more than one-third of the increase. By September, propane inventories should return to their previous five-year averages (2013-17) after being lower than average since early 2017.