Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Output from U.S. LNG facilities surpassed Qatar in December, according to data uncovered by Bloomberg, but the U.S.’s top position could be short-lived.

By Bloomberg

The US became the world’s number 1 exporter of liquefied natural gas last month for the first time ever, as deliveries to energy-hungry Europe increased.

Output from U.S. facilities rose above Qatar in December after a jump in exports from the Sabine Pass and Freeport facilities, according to shipping tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. Cheniere Energy Inc. said last month that a new production unit at its Sabine Pass plant in Louisiana was producing its first load.

Graph showing ship tracking data for LNG exports from the US, Australia and Qatar

A shale gas revolution, coupled with billions of dollars’ worth of investment in liquefaction facilities, has transformed the US from a net VNG importer to a top exporter in less than a decade. Gas production has increased by about 70% since 2010 and the country is expected to have the world’s largest export capacity by the end of 2022 as soon as Venture Global LNG’s Calcasieu Pass terminal goes online.

But the US’s position as the best LNG manufacturer may be short-lived. Exports were just a hair above those of Qatar and Australia, and any production issues could affect the rankings. Looking further, Qatar is planning a huge export project that will go online in the late 2020s, which could strengthen the Middle Eastern nation as the top supplier of fuel.

“Qatar and the US will compete over the next decade to be the largest LNG producers in the world,” said Muqsit Ashraf, senior managing director of Accenture’s global energy practice.

Meanwhile, the jump in US LNG exports will help alleviate a global supply crisis. Europe is facing a winter energy crisis as utilities struggle with seasonal low natural gas supplies. Overseas buyers bought 13% of U.S. gas production in December, a sevenfold increase from five years earlier when most of the infrastructure needed to send the fuel out of the country did not yet exist.

U.S. LNG export terminals sent out a record 1,043 cargoes in 2021, with Asian countries accounting for nearly half of the destinations and Europe accounting for one-third, shipping tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

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