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EIA: record US LNG exports in 2021

Published by , Assistant Editor
LNG Industry,

US exports of LNG set a record high in 2021, averaging 9.7 billion ft3/d, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) most recent Natural Gas Monthly. US LNG exports increased by 50% from 2020. The increase in US LNG exports was driven by increased demand in both Europe and Asia (particularly China) and by expanding US liquefaction capacity. In 2021, liquefaction at the six US LNG export terminals averaged 102% of nameplate (or nominal) capacity and 89% of peak capacity, according to EIA estimates.

In 2021, US LNG exports to Asia increased by 1.5 billion ft3/d (51%). Last year, the US became the third-largest LNG supplier to Asia, accounting for 12% of all LNG imports into Asia, after Australia (29%) and Qatar (21%), according to EIA’s estimates based on data from CEDIGAZ.

South Korea and China were nearly tied as the top two destinations for US LNG exports, at 1.2 billion ft3/d each. The increase in US LNG exports to China (by 0.6 billion ft3/d) was the largest increase among all destinations for US LNG exports last year. Since China lowered tariffs on imports of LNG from the US from 25% to 10% in 2019, US LNG imports into China have increased. Japan was the third-largest importer of US LNG in 2021, at 1.0 billion ft3/d. Combined, these three countries accounted for 35% of all US LNG exports in 2021, EIA states.

European countries (including Turkey) were the destination of 3.3 billion ft3/d of LNG imported from the US during 2021 – an increase of 0.8 billion ft3/d (32%) compared with 2020. US LNG exports to Europe increased in March and April 2021 following a cold winter in Europe, which significantly reduced the region’s natural gas held in storage. US LNG exports to Europe declined in subsequent months as higher spot prices in Asia attracted larger volumes of flexible US LNG supplies to Asia. During 4Q21, US LNG exports to Europe increased again as Europe’s natural gas storage inventories remained low and spot prices for natural gas in Europe exceeded those in Asia. The US exported 6.7 billion ft3/d of LNG to Europe in December 2021 – a record volume that has since been surpassed in both January and February 2022, according to EIA.

US LNG exports to Brazil increased by 0.5 billion ft3/d in 2021 compared with 2020, averaging 0.8 billion ft3/d on an annual basis. Last year, Brazil experienced its worst drought in more than 90 years, which limited hydroelectric power generation and led to more consumption of natural gas for electricity generation.

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