July 13 (Reuters) - The United States will transition from a net importer of natural gas to a net exporter of the fuel by the second half of 2017 as its shale gas output continues to grow, data this week from the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.
The EIA said in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) it expects higher U.S. gas production to reduce the country's demand for imports from Canada, while supporting growth in pipeline exports to Mexico and liquefied natural gas exports to the rest of the world.
But to be net exporter of gas through a calendar year, the United States will likely have to wait until 2018.
* EIA forecast the country will import 6.9 billion cubic feet per day on average in 2017 and export 6.7 bcfd. The U.S. was last a net exporter of gas on an annual basis in 1957, according to federal data.
* EIA expects exports to Mexico to continue rising due to growing demand from Mexico's power sector, while gas production in Mexico remains flat.
* EIA projects LNG exports will rise to an average 1.3 bcfd in 2017 from 0.6 bcfd in 2016 and 0.1 bcfd in 2015 as Cheniere Energy Inc's Sabine Pass plant in Louisiana ramps up capacity. Sabine Pass sent out its first cargo in February 2016. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino)