U.S. set to become energy exporter by 2026: EIA

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States is projected to become a net energy exporter over the next decade due to rising natural gas exports and falling petroleum product imports, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Thursday.

While the United States has been a net energy importer since 1953, declining energy imports and growing exports that started over the past year will allow that trend to switch by 2026, the EIA said.

In late 2015, the U.S. government lifted a decades-old ban on U.S. crude exports, while natural gas exports from the Lower 48 began in 2016.

“The U.S. could be completely, and the phrase that was used at one time, energy independent,” EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski said during a conference presenting the agency’s 2017 annual energy outlook.

In its report, total energy consumption will likely increase by 5 percent between 2016 and 2040 in the reference, base case, the EIA added.

Energy production increases from 2016 to 2040 will range from nearly flat under the most pessimistic assumption about costs and resources to nearly 50 percent growth over that period if higher production at lower cost is possible.

“Total energy production increases by more than 20 (percent) in the reference case, from 2016 through 2040, led by increases in crude oil and natural gas production,” the EIA added.

Reporting by Catherine Ngai; Editing by David Gregorio