U.S. to become net exporter of energy

Custom tugboats that are designed to tug the specialized LNG tankers are docked at the Cheniere's Sabine Pass LNG facility on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014, in Cameron, Louisiana. (J. Patric Schneider / For the Chronicle )
Custom tugboats that are designed to tug the specialized LNG tankers are docked at the Cheniere’s Sabine Pass LNG facility on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014, in Cameron, Louisiana. (J. Patric Schneider / For the Chronicle )

The United States will become a net exporter of energy within the next 15 years under most scenarios examined by the U.S. Department of Energy, according to a report released Thursday.

The department’s Annual Energy Outlook 2017 presents updated projections for U.S. energy markets through 2050 based on eight scenarios. It is the first time that the department has published projections through 2050.

Petroleum liquid imports will likely fall, the department anticipates, and natural gas exports should rise. The country’s rich shale fields and technological advances will combine to produce oil and gas at lower prices.

If oil prices also rise, oil companies will boost production even as the high prices tamp down domestic consumption, “enabling the most rapid transition to net exporter status,” the report says.

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In most of the scenarios, however, U.S. production declines in the 2030s, which slows or reverses projected growth in net energy exports.

Adam Sieminski, chief of the department’s Energy Information Administration, said the projections show how advances in technology are “reshaping the energy future.”

Other key findings:

• Total energy consumption increases 5 percent between 2016 and 2040 in the agency’s baseline scenario. The electric power sector is the largest consumer of energy, in all scenarios.

• Energy production ranges widely between scenarios, from nearly flat to 50 percent growth through 2040. Total energy production increases by more than 20 percent in the baseline case, led by increases in crude oil and natural gas production.

• Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions decline in most of the report’s scenarios. All of the scenarios except for one include the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan in estimates

The Energy Information Administration releases complete Annual Energy Outlooks every other year. This year’s version is a shorter edition.

Cases are available at the administration website.

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