Imports and exports are an important part of the natural gas market in the United States. They provide additional sources of supply for U.S. consumers and additional customers for U.S. producers. Sustained growth in domestic natural gas production in the United States during the past two decades reduced demand for natural gas imports and created opportunities to export natural gas. Today, the United States is a net exporter of natural gas and one of the top exporters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world. Transporting natural gas imports and exports occurs primarily by pipeline as a gas and by ship as LNG. Small amounts of natural gas are imported and exported by trucks as LNG and as compressed natural gas (CNG).
In 2022, U.S. natural gas exports reached a record high, and the United States was a net exporter of natural gas for the sixth year in a row.
Natural gas exports reached a record high in 2022
In 2022, total annual U.S. natural gas exports were 6.90 trillion cubic feet (Tcf)—the highest on record. The United States has been an annual net exporter of natural gas since 2016. Total U.S. annual natural gas exports generally increased each year from 2000 through 2022 because increases in U.S. natural gas production contributed to lower natural gas prices, which increased the competitiveness of U.S. natural gas in international markets. Expansion of the natural gas pipeline network, notably in the Permian Basin area of Texas, allowed producers to increase the capture of associated natural gas from oil wells, which helped to increase total production in 2022 and contributed to increases in U.S. natural gas exports.
In 2022, the United States exported natural gas to 46 countries. Previously, the United States exported relatively small volumes of natural gas, mostly by pipeline to Mexico and Canada. However, since the United States first began exporting LNG from the Lower 48 states in 2016, continued growth in LNG export capacity resulted in increased LNG exports. LNG exports increased substantially each year from 2016 through 2022. LNG exports exceeded pipeline natural gas exports for the second consecutive year in 2022. About 44% of total U.S. natural gas exports in 2022 were by pipeline, and about 68% of those exports went to Mexico and 32% went to Canada.
Natural gas imports peaked in 2007
Total U.S. annual natural gas imports in 2007 reached about 4.61 Tcf (12.62 billion cubic feet per day [Bcf/d]) and have generally declined each year since then. In 2022, total annual U.S. natural gas imports were about 3.02 Tcf (8.28 Bcf/d), which was about 8% more than in 2021 and the highest volume since 2017. Some of this imported natural gas may have been exported.
Most of U.S. natural gas imports are from Canada
In 2022, about 99% of U.S. total annual natural gas imports were from Canada and nearly all by pipeline. A small amount of CNG —0.01% of total natural gas imports—was tranported by truck from Canada. About 1% of total U.S. natural gas imports was LNG; 99% was from Trinidad and Tobago and the remainder was from Canada. U.S. natural gas imports are generally highest in winter when imports help meet increases in natural gas demand for heating.
Increases in U.S. natural gas production have helped to increase exports and reduce imports
U.S. natural gas production exceeded domestic consumption in 2017 through 2022. This surplus contributed to increased exports and to the United States becoming a natural gas net exporter from 2017 through 2022. Increases in production have helped to reduce the need for imports in recent years. Imports by pipeline from Canada and LNG imports at the LNG terminal in Everett, Massachusetts, are important sources of U.S. natural gas supply during the winter months.
Last updated: June 30, 2023, with the data from the Natural Gas Monthly, April 2023; data for 2022 are preliminary.