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US Exports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

Rising global exporter with resources to dominate world’s LNG supply in long term

The United States is now the world’s sixth largest LNG exporter (14.6 MMt in 2017), trailing Qatar, Australia, Malaysia, Nigeria and Indonesia. IHS Markit predicts the United States will become the third largest exporter by 2020.

The story of US LNG exports is directly tied to the US shale revolution, which has led to the production of abundant, cheap natural gas. It has satisfied growing North American gas demand while driving interest in converting underutilized US LNG import facilities into LNG export terminals and building greenfield export projects. Five projects are under construction totaling 47.8 MMtpa of liquefaction capacity. More than 30 additional LNG export projects have been proposed. US LNG imports, conversely, have declined precipitously over the last several years and are used mostly to meet winter demand spikes in New England, a pipeline-constrained region.

Which countries import US LNG?

The United States is making strides toward becoming one of the world’s top LNG suppliers, starting with exporting its first cargo from the US lower-48 in February 2016. As of July 2018, the US lower-48 has exported about 450 LNG cargoes to 28 countries. In March 2018, Cove Point LNG, in Maryland, became the second US lower-48 liquefaction project to commence exports, following Sabine Pass LNG, in Louisiana, where four trains are currently online. Kenai LNG in Alaska, the sole existing US LNG export facility prior to Sabine Pass and Cove Point, was likely placed into long-term preservation mode in fall 2017. In addition to Cove Point, Sabine Pass, and under-construction projects, more than 300 MMtpa of additional capacity has been proposed, much of which is aiming to be part of a second wave of US LNG starting in the 2020s.

Currently, the United States exports LNG primarily to Mexico, South Korea, China and Japan. However, as oversupply conditions are expected to grow over the next few years, exports to Europe will increase in importance due to its role as the residual LNG demand market.

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