Spencer Dale, group chief economist
Natural gas consumption rose by 195 billion cubic metres (bcm), or 5.3%, one of the fastest rates of growth since 1984.
Growth in gas consumption was driven mainly by the US (78 bcm), supported by China which also saw above-average growth of 17.7% (43 bcm), Russia (23 bcm) and Iran (16 Bcm). The US gas consumption increase of 78 Bcm last year is broadly equivalent to the entire gas consumption of the UK.
China’s strong growth was largely from a continuation of environmental policies encouraging coal-to-gas switching in industry and buildings in order to improve local air quality, together with robust growth in industrial activity during the first half of the year.
Global natural gas production increased by 190 bcm, or 5.2%.
Almost half of this came from the US (86 bcm), which (as with oil production) recorded the largest annual growth seen by any country in history. The US production increase was driven by shale plays in Marcellus, Haynesville and Permian. Russia (34 bcm), Iran (19 bcm) and Australia (17 bcm) were the next largest contributions to growth.
World proved gas reserves in 2018 increased by 0.7 Tcm to 196.9 Tcm mainly as result of increased reserves in Azerbaijan (0.8 Tcm).
Russia (38.9 Tcm), Iran (31.9 Tcm) and Qatar (24.7 Tcm) are the countries with the biggest reserves.
The current global R/P ratio shows that gas reserves in 2018 accounted for 50.9 years of current production, 2.4 years lower than in 2017. Middle East (109.9 years) and CIS (75.6 years) are the regions with the highest R/P ratio.
Growth in inter-regional natural gas trade was 39 bcm or 4.3%, more than double the 10-year average, driven largely by liquefied natural gas (LNG).
LNG supply growth came mainly from Australia (15 bcm), the US (11 bcm) and Russia (9 bcm) as a number of new liquefaction plants either started or ramped up. China accounted for half of the increase in imports (21 bcm).
Russian pipeline exports to Europe were largely unchanged on the year, maintaining the record levels built up in recent years, although with a slight decline in their share of Europe’s gas imports.
Asian and European gas spot prices have remained elevated during most of 2018, in response to higher oil, coal, and CO2 prices as well as a relatively tight LNG market. But weaker Asian demand combined with higher LNG exports led prices to drop towards the end of the year.
In contrast, Henry Hub prices were stable for most of 2018, but rebounded in the last quarter due to low US storage levels.