Despite the decline in natural gas imports from Canada, gas trade between the US and Canada remains important to balance US markets and helps ensure reliable supplies to parts of the US, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said. With ample Canadian pipelines and storage capacity, suppliers can rapidly increase flows, which helps stabilize the US market during periods of supply-demand imbalance, such as cold winter months.
In 2005, 17% of total US dry natural gas supply was imported from Canada. Since then, Canada’s share of US dry natural gas supply has declined due to growth in US domestic gas production. According to EIA’s Natural Gas Monthly, as of the end of August, total dry natural gas imports from Canada accounted for an average of 8% of US supply, and US natural gas production averaged 92%, or 97 bcfd.
During the same period, US natural gas pipeline exports to Canada have increased. In 2000, US exports averaged 2% of all pipeline natural gas trade with Canada. In 2005, that share increased to 9%. Through August of this year, it averaged 24%.
Natural gas imports from Canada to the western US have provided a steady source of supply and have been increasing, EIA said. So far this year, they have increased 4.1% compared with the same period in 2021. The border-crossing points at Sumas, Washington, and Eastport, Idaho, principally supply metropolitan areas in the Pacific Northwest and California, where several factors have challenged supply and demand balances this year. These factors included more demand for electric power to run air-conditioning due to sustained high temperatures and an extreme heat wave this summer; less hydroelectric power generation due to drought; reduced natural gas inflows from the Permian basin due to pipeline constraints.
Natural gas pipeline capacity has expanded throughout the eastern US, and the region is typically a net exporter of natural gas to Canada for much of the year. Imports from Canada, however, help support seasonal fluctuations in consumption, particularly during the winter peak, when cold temperatures drive demand for heating. Since 2012, imports into the eastern US have generally peaked in January or February at about 2 bcfd and then again in July or August at roughly 1 bcfd, when high temperatures drive demand for air-conditioning. During the shoulder seasons (spring and fall), net flows of natural gas reverse, flowing into Canada to build inventories.
During Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, US natural gas production had record declines, and imports from Canada increased to 9.5 bcfd to meet US demand, the highest monthly average since February 2011.