When we spoke with T. Boone Pickens in October 2010, he was lobbying Congress to enact a plan to convert the nation's over-the-road trucks to natural gas and thereby lessen the nation's dependence on foreign oil. Prices were around $4.00 mmbtu then. The March 2012 contract settled at $2.425 and still no action. Mark Fisher, our February 2011 feature, says eventually the U.S. will have to wake up and use the natural resources it already has available. Here, we look at the top 10 natural gas producing countries and compare that to their consumption rates and proven reserves. Source is the CIA Factbook.
By far, Algeria's most significant exports are oil and natural gas, and the country provides nearly 25% of the European Union's natural gas needs.
Production: 85.17 billion CU M *
Consumption: 29.86 billion CU M
Proven Reserves: 4,502 billion CU M
*CU M = cubic meters
Although the Netherlands owns substantial gas reserves in the North Sea, most of its production is presently from on-shore wells. Because of the abundance of natural gas, nuclear power accounts for only about 3% of the country's electricity needs.
Production: 85.17 billion CU M
Consumption: 53.19 billion CU M
Proven Reserves: 1,387 billion CU M
Although China currently relies on imports to provide for its natural gas needs, the government recently signaled it may begin exploring under shale rock formations. China has been promising to move forward on shale gas production for years.
Production: 96.8 billion CU M
Consumption: 109 billion CU M
Proven Reserves: 800 billion CU M
Producing 16 times more natural gas than it consumes, the Scandinavian country exports 100% of its excess to the European Union. Norwegian gas supplies 15% of Western Europe's consumption needs.
Production: 106.3 billion CU M
Consumption: 6.6 billion CU M
Proven Reserves: 2,039 billion CU M
The tiny country of Qatar controls nearly 14% of the world's proven natural gas reserves, most of which are located in an off-shore gas field that is nearly the same size as the country.
Production: 116.70 billion CU M
Consumption: 21.89 billion CU M
Proven Reserves: 25,370 billion CU M
Iran has more than 2 million natural gas powered vehicles on its roads and more than 1,400 refueling stations. As a result, it is able to export its expensive crude and power itself on cheap natural gas.
Production: 138.50 billion CU M
Consumption: 137.50 billion CU M
Proven Reserves: 29,610 billion CU M
Canada only consumes about half the natural gas it produces; guess where the rest goes? But, as the shale gas revolution has taken hold in the U.S., Canadian gas is beginning to be pushed to the side.
Production: 152.30 billion CU M
Consumption: 82.48 billion CU M
Proven Reserves: 1,754 billion CU M
#3 European Union
OK, so it's not a single country, but as a whole the EU uses nearly three times as much natural gas as it produces. With such a reliance on trading partners, there seems to be a constant threat it could be cut off for political reasons.
Production: 182.30 billion CU M
Consumption: 522.70 billion CU M
Proven Reserves: 2,168 billion CU M
Russia provides nearly a quarter of the natural gas used in the European Union. Much of that is transported via pipelines in Ukraine and has resulted in a number of disputes between the two countries.
Production: 588.90 billion CU M
Consumption: 414.10 billion CU M
Proven Reserves: 44,800 billion CU M
#1 United States
A lot of people say "The United States is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas." We may produce and use the most natural gas in the world, but plenty of other countries have higher proven reserves, including Saudi Arabia.
Production: 611.00 billion CU M
Consumption: 683.30 billion CU M
Proven Reserves: 7,716 billion CU M