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U.S. liquefied natural gas exports expected to outpace rivals this year

Record-setting exports of liquefied natural gas helped economies of scale break away from Russian gas company Gazprom. In terms of exporters, the United States should easily establish itself as the world leader this year. File photo by Anatoly Maltsev/EPA-EFE
1 of 2 | Record-setting exports of liquefied natural gas helped economies of scale break away from Russian gas company Gazprom. In terms of exporters, the United States should easily establish itself as the world leader this year. File photo by Anatoly Maltsev/EPA-EFE

July 5 (UPI) -- The United States briefly lost its position as the global leader in exports of liquefied natural gas last year, though federal forecasts show deliveries in 2023 will far exceed rivals.

The start of a new export facility for LNG helped establish the United States as the world's leading exporter last year.

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Operations began during the first half of 2022 at the Calcasieu Pass LNG export facility in Louisiana. The plant has a nameplate capacity of 1.3 billion cubic feet per day in LNG production through liquefaction systems called trains.

That helped total LNG exports increase by 16% compared with 2021 levels, establishing the United States as the world's leader in deliveries of super-cooled gas. But just barely.

A June 2022 pipeline explosion idled operations at the Freeport LNG facility, which accounts for about 20% of total U.S. natural gas exports as LNG, and work only resumed early this year.

Qatar took the lead last year with 10.5 billion cubic feet of LNG exports, followed by Australia with 10.4 billion.

That could easily change this year if federal forecasts prove accurate.

Last week saw energy company NextDecade announce that details on a final investment decision for the new Rio Grande LNG export facility in Texas are imminent and expansions are planned for plants such as Sabine Pass, usually the busiest export terminal in the country.

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With new additions, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, expects to see a 14% increase in U.S. LNG exports from year-ago levels, reaching 12.1 billion square feet on average. The energy agency expects that to increase again next year to reach 12.7 billion.

In terms of export destinations, the reshuffling in trade that came as a result of sanctions imposed on Russia for invading Ukraine, as well as sabotage that idled the twin Nord Stream natural gas network in the Baltic Sea, meant Europe was taking in more LNG from the United States.

All told, EIA found that global trade in LNG set a record at 51.7 billion square feet.

"Liquefaction capacity additions, primarily in the United States, drove growth in global LNG trade," the Energy Information Administration. "At the same time, increased LNG demand in Europe also contributed to trade growth as LNG continued to displace pipeline natural gas imports from Russia."

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