The US Energy Information Administration reports that the USA became the world’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter during the first half of 2022, according to data from CEDIGAZ. Compared with the second half of 2021, US LNG exports increased by 12% in the first half of 2022, averaging 11.2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d). Exports continued to grow for three reasons – increased LNG export capacity, increased international natural gas and LNG prices, and increased global demand, particularly in Europe.
According to EIA estimates, installed US LNG export capacity has expanded by 1.9 Bcf/d nominal (peaking at 2.1) since November 2021. The capacity additions included a sixth train at the Sabine Pass LNG, 18 new mid-scale liquefaction trains at the Calcasieu Pass LNG, and increased production capacity at Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi LNG facilities. As of July 2022, IEA estimates that US LNG liquefaction capacity averaged 11.4 Bcf/d, with a shorter-term peak capacity of 13.9 Bcf/d.
International natural gas and LNG prices hit record highs in the last quarter of 2021 and first half of 2022. Prices at the Title Transfer Facility (TTF) in the Netherlands have been trading at record highs since October 2021. TTF averaged $30.94 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) during the first half of 2022. LNG spot prices in Asia have also been high, averaging $29.50/MMBtu during the same period.
Since the end of last year, countries in Europe have increasingly imported more LNG to compensate for lower pipeline imports from Russia and to fill historically low natural gas storage inventories. LNG imports in the EU and UK increased by 63% during the first half of 2022 to average 14.8 Bcf/d.
Most exports went to the EU and the UK during the first five months of this year, accounting for 71%, or 8.2 Bcf/d, of the total US exports. As in 2021, the United States sent the most LNG to the EU and UK during the first half of the year, providing 47% of the 14.8 Bcf/d of Europe's total LNG imports, followed by Qatar at 15%, Russia at 14%, and four African countries combined at 17%.
In June, the USA exported 11% less LNG than the 11.4 Bcf/d average exports during the first five months of 2022, mainly as a result of an unplanned outage of the Freeport LNG export facility. Freeport LNG is expected to resume partial liquefaction operations in early October this year.
Utilisation of the peak capacity at the seven LNG export facilities averaged 87% during the first half of 2022, mainly before the Freeport LNG outage, which is similar to the average utilisation during 2021.
Image: US LNG exports H1 2022 (courtesy of US Energy Information Administration)