On the heels of record-low natural gas prices, RBC Capital Markets and the Economist Intelligence Unit published a report focusing on the U.S. shale gas boom and its implications for North American economies and businesses.

The report examines how the surge in unconventional gas production is transforming sectors such as energy and transportation.

“We are entering a paradigm shift in the way that businesses and national governments look at energy, particularly as it relates to underlying market drivers, business models, risks and economic impact stemming from the shale gas boom,” said Marc Harris, RBC Capital Markets’ co-head of Global Research.

“The coming years will be transformative for companies, particularly those in the energy, infrastructure, manufacturing and transportation sectors, which will, in turn, create opportunities for both investors and corporations,” added Richard Talbot, co-head of Global Research, RBC Capital Markets.

Key findings from the research include:

Most Exploration & Production market participants believe shale gas prices have bottomed out: The vast majority (87%) of survey respondents predict natural gas prices will stay the same or increase over the next two years. In fact, 73% of respondents anticipate a price increase of 10% or more in the next five years. Until then, E&P companies are moving away from dry gas and are focusing instead on liquid-rich plays, such as wet gas and shale oil.

The shale gas boom is making U.S. companies think twice: Companies in the energy, manufacturing and transportation industries are reassessing underlying market drivers, business models and risks as a result of the shale gas boom. On an economy-wide level, respondents expect that shale gas will improve country competitiveness in both the U.S. (52%) and in Canada (48%).

The shale gas boom is impacting industries differently – consider manufacturing and transportation: Low cost shale gas will be especially beneficial to companies that rely on feedstock or direct energy usage to compete on a global level. In industries like petrochemicals and fertilizers, where feedstock or energy inputs can account for up to 90% of total production costs, low-priced shale gas will be a game changer. The impact on the transportation industry will be more subtle; rather than a complete transformation to natural-gas-based usage, diversification will likely take place across the industry.

Impact on the U.S. economy: According to more than half (54%) of those surveyed in the report, shale gas could lead to natural gas becoming a significant U.S. export in the medium term. However, revenues generated from natural gas exports will not necessarily have a significant positive impact on the state of the overall U.S. economy. The implications on job creation will be positive, but energy security and environmental concerns could limit the scale of natural gas exports in the U.S.

Infrastructure will be challenged to keep up with demand dynamics: While sourcing infrastructure investment capital is unlikely to be a major bottleneck to the growth of the gas industry, regulatory risks remain prevalent. Regional pipeline supply dynamics are rapidly changing in response to changing demand conditions.