The U.S. will begin exporting more natural gas than it imports during President Donald Trump’s first year in office, according to a report published Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The country’s status as a net exporter is expected to expand well beyond 2017 because of a growing amount of exports to Mexico and a decline in imports from Canada, EIA’s report noted. The U.S. became the world’s largest natural gas producer in 2009 after the country surpassed Russia.
Mexico meanwhile is updating its pipeline infrastructure to make way for future imports from the U.S. Its appetite for natural gas has grown rapidly, as Mexico’s energy industry expects to increase its natural gas use for electric power generation by about 50 percent over the next five years.
Much of EIA’s report is based on the expectation that the country will continue constructing energy pipelines that crisscross from the U.S. to Canada.
Pipelines such as Rover and Nexus Gas Transmission are being built to shuttle gas from the Marcellus and Utica supply regions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia into areas on the Gulf coast and eastern Canada.
Many of these projects are dependent on the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the primary agency responsible for regulating the country’s energy infrastructure. FERC currently lacks the number of members necessary for a quorum, which would help the approval process.
The process for approval of pipelines across borders was once the responsibility of the president, but lawmakers are considering giving FERC sole authority over the approval of interstate natural gas pipelines. Congress passed a measure earlier this month granting the agency sole responsibility for permitting all pipelines that cross the U.S. border with Canada or Mexico.
The vote was a shot across the bow of the Obama administration. Former President Barack Obama used his executive powers to deny a permit to TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline in 2015, a 1,700-mile project that is expected to carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.
TransCanada, the company building the project, initially applied for a cross-border permit in 2008, and the Department of State subsequently found that the project would have no significant impact on the environment or on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Obama, for his part, argued that the project would hurt the country’s ability to limit climate change.