Natural gas is one of the most important fuels in today’s world.
To an extent, it offers the high energy benefits of petroleum fuels and also is more environmentally friendly due to lower emissions.
Additionally, recent developments in the global energy market, particularly in Europe, have also thrown the liquefied natural gas (LNG) market into the global spotlight due to Europe’s efforts to diversify away from Russian gas.
Starting from a broad overview of the dynamics of global natural gas demand, the growth in usage in mature markets and countries is now believed to be replaced by growth from the developing world.
At least that’s what is present in the International Energy Agency’s analysis of the sector in October 2023.
The agency’s Medium-Term Gas Report 2023 shows that global natural gas demand will grow by 1.6% annually between 2022 and 2026 to mark a slowdown from the historical average of 2.5%.
These mature markets account for roughly half of the global natural gas demand, and while they might slow down consumption due to infrastructure investments that are difficult to further expand, Asia in particular will now play a more important role in the global natural gas industry.
Any talk about Asia is incomplete without China, and the IEA estimates that the Asian economic giant can account for half of the global natural gas demand between 2022 and 2026.
However, while the IEA might be muted in its expectations for natural gas, industry executives are striking a different tone.
The energy agency’s World Energy Outlook 2023 report claimed that natural gas demand would drop by 100 billion cubic meters by 2050, yet, gas industry executives point out that Asia’s demand alone could grow by more than 50% by 2050.
In fact, according to the chief executive officer of Woodside Energy Group Ltd (NYSE:WDS) Meg O’Neil, LNG is absolutely essential for Asia to meet its economic growth projections and the shift to environmentally friendly fuels.
Yet, while Asia is expected to maintain a strong role in the global natural gas market, the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine might already have made a permanent mark on the industry, particularly in Europe.
At least that’s what the CEO of Vitol Holding BV, one of the largest gas companies in the world, believes. Vitol’s LNG shipments to Europe tripled to 3 million tons in 2022 from 2021’s figures, but a reduction in piped gas imports in the EU can be permanent especially due to industrial shutdowns due to high prices.
According to Vitol CEO Russel Hardy, some of this lost demand can “stay lost forever.”
Further zoning in on the natural gas industry to see which are the biggest players, we analyzed the sector as part of our coverage of the 15 Biggest Gas Companies in the World.
Within this list, Chinese firms dominate the top spots, and while the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (TADAWUL:2222.SR), or Aramco, is still focusing on crude oil as its bread and butter, it has access to sizeable natural gas reserves due to being Saudi Arabia’s sole national oil and gas company. Some big natural gas companies that trade on American stock exchanges are Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), Shell plc (NYSE:SHEL), and TotalEnergies SE (NYSE:TTE).
Zooming in on these top natural gas companies’ financial results and recent moves in the industry shows that 2023 has been a sobering year. Big oil’s profit boom due to high prices in 2022 was widely covered in the media, and now, the firms are returning to reality.
For instance, Exxon’s financial report for its third quarter of 2023 saw the oil giant’s profit sink by 54% annually and miss analyst estimates yet again due to lower oil prices.
A 60% drop in natural gas prices contributed a lot to the profit drop, but this hasn’t stopped the American oil and gas company from expanding its investments in the gas industry.
Exxon made a big announcement in October when it revealed that it plans to acquire Texas based Pioneer Natural Resources Company (NYSE:PXD) for a price tag of a whopping $60 billion.
This will be the largest merger deal in Exxon’s history after a 1997 agreement led to the company’s current form. The affair is quite lucrative for Exxon since Pioneer’s operations are in the Permian Basin in West Texas, a region that accounts for 18% of America’s natural gas production. Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods shared with CNBC in an interview that the Pioneer deal will particularly prove valuable in his firm’s efforts to meet the demand for fossil fuels such as natural gas in an era where the world gradually shifts to renewable energy.
Finally, before we jump to the list of countries with the biggest natural gas reserves, a mention of Shell plc (NYSE:SHEL) is absolutely essential.
Shell is one of the largest LNG companies in the world, and its third quarter of 2023 earnings saw the firm’s profit drop by 36% – a much lower drop than Exxon’s.
Behind this out performance compared to its peer is Shell’s gas trading division, and its integrated gas revenue jumped to $2.529 billion in Q3 2023 over Q2 2023’s $2.498 billion.
A wide shot of a sprawling natural gas pipeline system, representing the company’s energy infrastructure.
To compile our list of the countries with the highest natural gas reserves, we used data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) to see which countries have the highest dry natural gas reserves.
20 Countries With The Largest Natural Gas Reserves in 2023
20. State of Kuwait
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 1,800
Kuwait is a Middle Eastern country with one of the strongest petroleum economies in the world. It has one of the biggest LNG import terminals on the planet, along with more than a hundred billion barrels of petroleum reserves.
19. Arab Republic of Egypt
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 1,800.
Egypt is one of the oldest countries in the world. While its economy isn’t as stable as Kuwait’s, it is one of the largest gas producers on the African continent.
18. Republic of Uzbekistan
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 1,800
Uzbekistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia. Its economy relies heavily on natural resources for output, and big Chinese and Russian energy companies dominate its petroleum industry.
17. Republic of Azerbaijan
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 2,000
Azerbaijan is a European and Asian nation. Its oil industry is one of the most controversial in the world, with some claiming the ruling family of siphoning the nation’s oil wealth overseas.
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 2,100. Canada is a North American nation with vast natural resources. Most of the Canadian gas reserves are located offshore, primarily in the region of Nova Scotia.
15. Republic of Kazakhstan
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 2,400
Kazakhstan is another landlocked Central Asian country. It relies heavily on petroleum products for its economic growth, and gas production in the country is managed by the state company KazMunayGas.
14. Republic of Mozambique
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 3,000
Mozambique is an African nation with a $21.9 billion economy. Coal and gas account for the bulk of its exports.
13. Commonwealth of Australia
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 3,230. Australia is a developed Oceanic country. Most of its natural gas reserves are in the Queensland province, with New South Wales accounting for the remainder.
12. Republic of Iraq
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 3,740
Iraq is a Middle Eastern country with some of the largest petroleum reserves in the world. Data also shows that Iraq is one of the largest producers of flared gas in the world, and it opened up new blocks to foreign bidders in June 2023.
11. People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 4,500
Algeria is a North African country with a coast to the Mediterranean Sea. Energy accounts for more than 90% of its exports, which allows Algeria to have billions of dollars in foreign reserves.
10. Federal Republic of Nigeria
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 5,750. Courtesy of its sizeable energy economy, Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa. This economy is built on the petroleum industry, and Nigeria is also interested in meeting Europe’s natural gas needs.
9. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 6,000
Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves in the world, but it cannot sell its products on the global market. Where there’s oil, there’s gas, making it no surprise that it ranks 9th on our list of the countries with the largest natural gas reserves.
8. United Arab Emirates
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 6,090. The U.A.E. is a prosperous Middle Eastern nation. It accounts for more than a fifth of the world’s natural gas production.
7. People’s Republic of China
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 6,650
China is the world’s biggest economy in PPP terms as well as the second most populous nation. It is also the world’s third largest natural gas consumer.
6. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 9,430
Saudi Arabia is the world’s leading oil producer. October was a historic month for gas in Saudi Arabia, as the state owned Aramco bought its first stake in an LNG company.
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 10,000.
Turkmenistan is a landlocked Central Asian country. It has some of the biggest natural gas fields in the world, with gas production being entrusted to the state owned company Turkmengaz. Turkmenistan provides billions of cubic feet of gas to China, and it also aims to provide gas to India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan – all regional countries, through a new pipeline. However, Turkmenistan’s natural gas industry is also quite controversial, with one leak having been thought to have released billions of dollars of the fuel into the atmosphere.
4. United States of America
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 17,710. The United States is the world’s largest economy in nominal terms, the world’s only superpower, and also the world’s largest oil producer. The U.S. also has the world’s biggest privately run oil companies, such as Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) and Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM). More than a fifth of America’s natural gas reserves are in Texas, with Pennsylvania and Louisiana also having significant reserves. America’s energy mix is also reliant on natural gas due to the fuel’s clean burning properties.
3. State of Qatar
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 23,900. Qatar is a Middle Eastern nation that is one of the most prosperous countries in the world. It has the fifth highest GDP per capita in the world at $51,968. The Russian invasion of Ukraine gave Qatar’s natural gas industry a sizeable boost as supplies to Europe accelerated due to sanctions on Russian fuels. Gas exports from Qatar’s North Field have enabled it to vastly improve its standard of living, demonstrating the crucial role of the fuel in the country’s development.
2. Islamic Republic of Iran
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 34,000. Iran is another Asian country with vast amounts of petroleum reserves. Just like Venezuela, the country cannot sell its fuel on the international market due to financial sanctions. However, Iran nevertheless supplies copious amounts of oil to China through a vast global network of cargo ships. Yet, fuel subsidies in Iran are often a pain for budget managers, and the country is also investing billions of dollars to bring its LNG capacity up to global standards.
1. Russian Federation
Natural Gas Reserves In Cubic Kilometers in 2021: 47,800. Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of landmass. It is also a crucial player in the global natural gas industry, with the state owned firm Gazprom responsible for supplying Russian gas through massive land pipelines. These days though Russia is eager to find alternative markets for its gas after supplies have dropped to Europe. To this end, it plans to build a new natural gas pipeline to supply China.