Several countries dominate the world’s natural gas supply, with total production reaching around 4 trillion cubic metres in 2019.
The two biggest rivals, the US and Russia, are by far the world’s largest giants in natural gas production and dominate natural gas supply.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), natural gas accounted for almost a third of overall energy demand growth coverage over the past decade (more than any other fuel) and about 23 per cent of primary global energy demand.
Global natural gas production, since the 2008 financial crisis, has grown steadily, also fuelled by advances in shale fracking technology in the US, and according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2020, was around 4 trillion cubic metres in 2019.
Total global natural gas reserves have been measured at around 199 trillion cubic metres, with several countries holding the largest reserves.
Natural gas is widely expected to remain a reliable fuel for many years to come, acting as a bridge between fossil fuels and renewables.
The six largest natural gas producers in the world in 2019:
1 USA – approximately 921 bcm.
The USA accounted for 23 per cent of global natural gas production in 2019 – more than any other country and the volume was around 921 bcm.
Texas and Pennsylvania are the two states that produce the most natural gas in the US, mainly through the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques.
Natural gas production has increased dramatically over the past decade, driven by the shale fracking revolution of the second decade of the 21st century, which has helped the United States become the world’s largest oil-producing nation. Major US energy companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips are also among the world’s largest natural gas producers.
2 Russia – 679 bcm
Russia is the second largest natural gas producing country in the world, putting out 679 bcm in 2019, an equivalent of 17% of total global production.
Russia is also home to the world’s largest known natural gas reserves, estimated at 38 trillion cubic metres, most of which are located in Siberia.
Gazprom is the world’s largest producer of natural gas and covers around 12 per cent of global production and 68 per cent of domestic production.
Russia is a major exporter of natural gas to Europe and Asia and most supplies pass through its extensive pipeline networks.
3 Iran – over 244 bcm.
Iran’s share of global natural gas production in 2019 stood at 6 per cent with a volume of over 244 bcm.
Although production levels are well below those of the US and Russia, Iran has significant potential to increase supply as it holds the world’s second largest natural gas reserves estimated at 32 trillion cubic metres.
Economic sanctions imposed on Iran, mainly by the US in response to geopolitical tensions and a dangerously expanding nuclear programme, have hampered the country’s ability to further develop the commercial potential of these untapped vast reserves. Iran co-owns (with Qatar) the world’s largest gas field – South Pars/North Dome in the Persian Gulf.
4 Qatar – over 178 bcm.
Qatar produced just over 178 bcm of natural gas in 2019, accounting for around 4.5 per cent of the global share.
Most of the country’s Middle East production is in the North Field, with Qatar sharing the South Pars/North Dome gas field in the Persian Gulf with neighbouring Iran.
State-owned Qatar Petroleum oversees most of the country’s natural gas activities.
Qatar is the world’s largest producer of LNG and was the largest exporter in 2019, closely followed by Australia.
Qatar has recently signalled its intention to massively upgrade its LNG production capacity with the development of North Field East, the world’s largest LNG project at $28.75 billion with an annual production capacity of 33 million tonnes.
5 China – approximately 178 bcm.
China’s natural gas production was just under 178 bcm in 2019, placing the Middle Kingdom just behind Qatar.
Natural gas production has been growing steadily for several years in response to rising domestic demand.
Chinese companies, including Sinopec, China National Petroleum Corporation and China National Offshore Oil Corporation, are responsible for much of the country’s production.
Natural gas production in China is largely from conventional fields, although there is a growing shale industry in the region, which is currently supported by government subsidies and incentives.
The most productive regions in the country are Sichuan – Chongqing, Shaanxi and Xinjiang.
6 Canada – over 173 bcm.
Canada’s 2019 natural gas production reached more than 173 billion cubic metres, accounting for 4.3 per cent of the global share.
The majority of domestic natural gas production (about 71 per cent), is in the resource-rich province of Alberta, while British Columbia accounts for about 27 per cent of domestic production.
Canada exports more natural gas than it consumes, with all of these exports going to markets in the US, mainly through pipelines.
By Martin Chomsky (photo: Gazprom)