Who are the world’s largest producers and consumers of natural gas? Which countries relied on LNG imports in 2016? How much gas might be extracted in future? From where will future demand come? As BP shifts its portfolio towards gas, alongside quality, advantaged oil projects, BP Magazine looks at the gas world today and how the fastest-growing hydrocarbon fuel will help meet global energy needs in future
1. Top 20 natural gas producers and consumers in 2016
While the US retained its position as both number one natural gas producer and consumer in 2016, its production fell (down 2.5%) for the first time since the shale gas revolution started in earnest in the mid-2000s, caused by falls in gas (and oil) prices. Outside the US, on the demand side, gas consumption in Europe rose strongly (up 6%), helped by both the increasing competitiveness of gas relative to coal and weakness in European nuclear and renewable energy. The Middle East and China both also recorded strong increases in consumption, aided by improving infrastructure and availability of gas. The largest falls were in Russia (down 3.2%) and Brazil (down 12.5% and not appearing in the top 20), both of which benefited from strong increases in hydropower. On the supply side, Australian production was the standout performer (up by 25.2%) as several new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities came onstream.
2. Top 10 LNG importers and exporters in 2016 (in billion cubic feet per day of gas)
Last year, countries in Asia Pacific took all five top spots for LNG imports, while Australia dominated the net growth in exports.
According to BP's Statistical Review of World Energy, 2016 was the first year of the growth spurt expected to come in LNG production, with global supplies set to increase by around a further 30% by 2020. That is equivalent to a new LNG train coming on stream every two months until the end of this decade, a rate that BP's chief economist Spencer Dale describes as "quite astonishing growth".
Forecasts also point to global LNG trade growing seven times faster than pipeline gas trade, so that by 2035 it accounts for around half of all globally traded gas.
3. Top 20 countries with largest proved reserves (in trillion cubic feet and as equivalent % of total world share)
At more than 6,588 trillion cubic feet recorded in 2016, global proved gas reserves are sufficient to meet more than 52 years of current production. As a region, the Middle East holds the largest reserves with 42.5% of the global total, while Iran holds the most proved gas resources as a country.
4. Current and forecast gas consumption by region (in billion cubic feet per day)
Looking ahead to 2035, natural gas is expected to grow faster than oil or coal, with consumption increasing by 1.6% per year from 2015. According to BP’s Energy Outlook, the main demand for growth will come from China, as gas gains greater share in industry and power generation, as well as the Middle East and the US, where increased availability of gas will help to boost demand within the power sector.