June 2 (UPI) -- The shale boom under way in the United States means the country is primed to become a leader in liquefied natural gas developments, a Texas leader said.
Federal data show U.S. natural gas production should average 74.1 billion cubic feet per day in 2017, a 2.5 percent increase from 2016. The trend, if forecasts are accurate, would mark a reversal as last year was the first year for a decline in U.S. natural gas production in more than a decade.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said commodity prices could improve as new export capabilities emerge for natural gas. Christi Craddick, the chair of the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state energy regulator, said her state is in a unique position to capitalize on emerging LNG opportunities.
"The export of natural gas represents one of the most promising economic opportunities of the new American shale boom," she told an LNG conference in Houston. "As our country's LNG export market grows, it will also help to position us as a global energy superpower."
A special permit is needed to send natural gas to countries without a U.S. free trade agreement, a scenario that could present roadblocks for future LNG exports to the European market given President Donald Trump's protective stance on trade.
European leaders have said LNG sourced from U.S. shale basins could present a source of diversity with the right infrastructure in place. Some countries in Eastern Europe like Poland, which contracted its first LNG deliveries from the United States in April, rely almost exclusively on Russia for natural gas.
As part of a 100-day action plan from the Trump administration, meanwhile, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reached a decision to allow China, which doesn't have a free-trade agreement with the United States, to receive LNG.
Craddick said the potential was there for further LNG gains with the right infrastructure in place.
"The industry has been working as quickly as possible to transition LNG import terminals to export terminals," she said.
Total U.S. natural gas production next year could be 4 percent higher than the 2017 level.