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January 24, 2019

EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2019 projects growing oil, natural gas, renewables production

U.S. crude oil and natural gas plant liquids production
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2019

EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2019 (AEO2019), which will be released later this morning, includes projections of U.S. energy markets through 2050 based on a Reference case and six side cases that include different assumptions regarding prices, economic activity, and technology and resource estimates. AEO2019 projects continued development of U.S. shale and tight oil and natural gas resources. Natural gas and natural gas plant liquids (NGPLs) experience the highest production growth of all fossil fuels, and NGPLs account for almost one-third of cumulative U.S. liquids production through the 2050 projection period.

In the Reference case, U.S. crude oil production continues to set annual records through the mid-2020s and remains greater than 14.0 million barrels per day (b/d) through 2040. The continued development of tight oil and shale gas resources, particularly those in the East and Southwest regions, supports growth in NGPL production—which reaches 6.0 million b/d by 2030—and dry natural gas production. Dry natural gas production reaches 43.4 trillion cubic feet by 2050.

Growth in drilling in the Southwest region also drives natural gas production from tight oil formations in the Reference case. Because drilling activity in oil formations primarily depends on crude oil prices rather than natural gas prices, the increase in natural gas production from oil-directed drilling puts downward pressure on natural gas prices. Sustained low natural gas prices and declining costs of renewable power enable the shares of electricity generated by natural gas and renewables to increase. The natural gas share increases from 34% in 2018 to 39% in 2050, and the renewables share increases from 18% in 2018 to 31% in 2050.

electricity generation by fuel in the AEO2019 reference case
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2019

The Reference case is not intended to be the most probable prediction of the future, but it instead forms a baseline for estimating the effects of new policy or technology changes in the future. The other six cases show the effect of changing other key model assumptions.

Other significant findings in AEO2019 include:

The United States becomes a net energy exporter by 2020. In the Reference case, the United States becomes a net exporter of petroleum liquids in 2020 as U.S. crude oil production increases and domestic consumption of petroleum products decreases. The United States continues to be a net exporter of natural gas and coal (including coal coke) through 2050.

U.S. net exports of natural gas continue to grow as liquefied natural gas becomes an increasingly significant export. In the Reference case, U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and pipeline exports to Canada and to Mexico increase until 2030 and then flatten through 2050 as relatively low, stable natural gas prices make U.S. natural gas competitive in North American and global markets.

Natural gas and renewable energy shares grow in U.S. electric generation. EIA’s Reference case highlights the impact of sustained low natural gas prices and declining costs of renewables on the electricity generation fuel mix. The natural gas share maintains its lead and continues to grow, increasing from 34% in 2018 to 39% in 2050. The renewables share, including hydroelectric generation, also increases from 18% in 2018 to 31% in 2050, driven largely by growth in wind and solar generation. Renewables grow to become a larger share of U.S. electric generation than nuclear and coal in less than a decade.

Increasing energy efficiency across end-use sectors keeps U.S. energy consumption relatively flat, even as the U.S. economy continues to expand. Delivered U.S. energy consumption grows across all major end-use sectors, with electricity and natural gas consumption growing fastest.

Principal contributor: Terry Yen