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EIA outlines projected US LNG export volumes

Published by , Assistant Editor
LNG Industry,

The U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2021 (AEO2021) projects that the volume of US LNG exports through 2050 will span a wide range based on its published side cases. In the AEO2021 reference case, US LNG exports continue to grow throughout the 2020s, reaching 13.7 billion ft3/d after 2030. LNG exports vary across cases from approximately 8 billion ft3/d to more than 27 billion ft3/d, which illustrates how the volume of LNG exports depends on crude oil and domestic natural gas prices.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2021 (AEO2021).

How the US price for LNG compares with world LNG prices (which reflects the competitiveness of US LNG exports in the global market) influences whether new liquefaction capacity is built and how EIA projects US LNG export volumes. EIA used its Natural Gas Market Module (NGMM) to project how US LNG supply prices compare with world markets using domestic natural gas prices and assumptions related to costs and fuel use to develop its AEO2021. To determine their competitiveness, NGMM compares these prices with world LNG prices for markets in both Europe and Asia, based on the following inputs:

  • World oil prices.
  • Relative growth of natural gas consumption in markets in Europe and Asia.
  • Relative growth of LNG supply not sold under long-term contracts, or flexible LNG supply.

According to the EIA, the difference in projected US LNG exports in the AEO2021 high and low oil price cases reflects the relationship of world oil prices to US liquefaction capacity builds and utilisation rates. In the high oil price case, where the Brent crude oil price grows to almost US$180/bbl in real terms by 2050, US LNG exports exceed 27 billion ft3/d by the end of the projection period. However, in the low oil price case, where oil prices remain lower than US$50/bbl in real terms during the projection period, US LNG exports do not exceed 8 billion ft3/d after 2030 because US liquefaction capacity is underutilised. As a result of low oil prices, no new LNG export capacity is built beyond what is already under construction and expected to enter service by late 2025.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2021 (AEO2021).

In the high oil and gas supply case, where Henry Hub natural gas prices remain lower than US$3.00 per million Btu in real terms, US LNG export volumes continue to grow through 2040, reaching a high of 21.4 billion ft3/d in 2050. The low oil and gas supply case generates higher domestic natural gas prices, which reduces the global competitiveness of US LNG exports. As US Henry Hub prices rise from US$5.00/million Btu in 2030 to almost $US6.50/million Btu in 2050 in real terms, US LNG export volumes decline to less than 9.0 billion ft3/d by 2050, and existing liquefaction capacity becomes increasingly underutilised, the EIA states.

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