The global natural gas market is a complex and dynamic industry that plays a critical role in the world’s energy supply. Natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane, is a clean-burning fossil fuel that is used for a variety of purposes, including electricity generation, heating, and industrial processes. Given its status as a critical energy asset, geopolitical competition plays an important role in determining market dynamics for natural gas at any given moment, as unpacked below.
One of the key factors in the global natural gas market is the location of major sources of supply. The world’s largest producers of natural gas are the United States, Russia, and Iran, which together account for about 40% of global production. Other major producers include Canada, Qatar, and Turkmenistan. In addition to these traditional sources of natural gas, the global market is also being affected by the increasing production of shale gas. Shale gas is a type of natural gas that is extracted from shale rock formations using a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The United States has become the world’s leading producer of shale gas, and this has had a major impact on global natural gas markets.
Another key factor in the global natural gas market is the location of major hubs of consumption. The largest consumers of natural gas are the United States, China, and Russia, which together account for about 50% of global consumption. Other major consumers include Japan, South Korea, and Europe.
The main companies involved in the global natural gas market are a mix of national and international firms. National oil companies, such as Russia’s Gazprom and the National Iranian Oil Company, are among the largest players in the industry. International firms, such as ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, also have a significant presence in the global natural gas market.
Geopolitical competition around natural gas refers to the political and economic rivalries that arise between countries as a result of their consumption and production of natural gas. Such rivalry around natural gas often centers on access to major sources of supply. For example, Russia is one of the world’s largest producers of natural gas, and its control over natural gas reserves in Eastern Europe has been a source of geopolitical tension with countries such as Ukraine and Poland. Similarly, the development of shale gas reserves in the United States has led to increased competition with other major gas-producing countries, such as Russia and Iran.
Geopolitical competition around natural gas also often involves the construction of infrastructure, such as pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, to transport natural gas from producing countries to consuming countries. The construction of these projects can be politically sensitive, as they often involve crossing national borders and can have strategic implications for the countries involved.
In addition to competition over access to natural gas reserves and infrastructure, geopolitical competition around natural gas can also involve economic rivalries. For example, countries that rely heavily on natural gas exports, such as Russia and Qatar, may seek to increase their market share by offering competitive pricing and financing deals to importing countries.
Overall, geopolitical competition around natural gas is a complex and dynamic phenomenon that is influenced by a range of factors, including access to natural gas reserves, the construction of infrastructure, and economic rivalries.