According to the Energy Information Agency (EIA) the USA produced 2.2 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of marketable gas in December 2013 . This translates to 71 billion cubic feet (BCF) per day which exceeds the average daily consumption of 70 BCF per day in 2012 . The USA is already self-sufficient in natural gas and is looking to acquire liquefied natural gas export markets.
The US government has already approved 38.5 BCF / day LNG export terminals, some of which are under construction . The LNG EXPORT USA 2014 congress to be held in Houston at the end of April will bring together suppliers and prospective buyers with senior keynote speakers from China, India and the UK .
Experienced voices have warned that US shale gas is a bubble waiting to burst . Losses and write downs in major shale gas producers lend some credence to those claims. The main problem has been a glut and low price. Current data points to the USA becoming an LNG exporter and is out there looking for export markets . Creating an open system where excess gas can be exported at international prices may transform the fortunes of the US shale gas industry.
The history of shale gas production in the USA has been quite remarkable. Following the mantra of drill baby drill the US fleet of rigs more than doubled from 800 units in 2000 to over 2000 units in 2008 (Figure 1). It is the post-2008 history that is remarkable. Following industry wide shutdown in the wake of the financial crash there has been a huge migration away from drilling gas to drilling the light tight oil plays of Bakken and Eagle Ford (Figure 1). Despite the number of rigs drilling for gas falling from over 1600 in 2008 to less than 400 today, gas production continued to rise (Figure 2) as drilling became more efficient and rich sweet spots were discovered in The Marcellus shale of Pennsylvania.
Figure 1 US rotary drilling rid count from Baker Hughes 
Figure 2 US marketable natural gas production 
The plateau in US gas production reached in 2011 marks self sufficiency being reached (Figure 2) since the number of rigs drilling for gas has continued to decline in that time frame (Figure 1). Shale gas production volumes do not link directly to drilling since there is always a backlog of wells drilled waiting to be connected to the distribution system by pipelines. But it does appear that an equilibrium point has been reached where a little over 300 rigs drilling shale gas can produce sufficient volumes to offset declines – for so long as new drilling targets can be found.
Shale sceptical arguments point to high decline rates and eventually running out of shale targets to drill. Leading critic, Arthur Berman, has also emphasised the loss making nature of the shale business, arguments underlined by company write downs . The latter problem has been more one of price and LNG exports may rectify that problem in short order. Berman may yet be proven right, but the drilling and production statistics point to the US achieving self sufficiency at a canter. To grow production to create export volumes from here may require drilling to increase again and that may involve pulling rigs away from the liquids plays or expansion of the drilling fleet.
There are multiple benefits for the USA from exporting shale gas, among them the creation of employment, the reduction of the US energy import trade deficit, securing the mid term future of the shale industry by driving gas prices up and undermining the gas dependency of Europe on Russia. In so doing weakening the economy and political influence of that old cold war enemy. On the downside, Americans can expect their natural gas prices to rise as LNG exports chase prices in the Far East, five times higher than domestic US prices . And by exporting gas today the USA may be selling its future energy security – but hey, that is the American way.
 EIA: US natural gas marketed production
 BP: Statistical Review of World Energy 2013
 Applications Received by DOE/FE to Export Domestically Produced LNG from the Lower-48 States (as of March 24, 2014)
 LNG Export USA 2014: Global Buyer Congress
 Shale, the Last Oil and Gas Train: Interview with Arthur Berman
 Baker Hughes: North America Rig Count
 What is the real cost of shale gas?