US LNG shipments exceeded pipeline natural gas exports in November by nearly 1.2 billion cubic feet per day, and this trend continued in the following months, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Previously, this has happened only once since 1998, when in April 2020, LNG exports barely exceeded pipeline exports that month by 0.01 Bcf/d, EIA said in a report.
Furthermore, preliminary estimates for December 2020 and January 2021, suggest a continuation of this trend.
In November and December 2020, US LNG exports set two consecutive monthly records at 9.4 Bcf/d and 9.8 Bcf/d, respectively, and set another monthly record in January 2021 at 9.8 Bcf/d, EIA said.
EIA forecasts in its January short-term energy outlook that US LNG exports will exceed natural gas exports by pipeline in the first and fourth quarters of this year and on an annual basis in 2022, as global natural gas and LNG demand recover to pre-Covid-19 levels.
US LNG plants operating near full capacity
Since November 2020, all six US LNG export facilities have been operating near full design capacity, according to EIA.
In December, Cheniere’s Corpus Christi LNG facility in Texas commissioned its third and final liquefaction unit, bringing the total US liquefaction capacity to 9.5 Bcf/d baseload and 10.8 Bcf/d peak across six export terminals.
These export terminals feature 15 standard-size liquefaction units and 10 small modular liquefaction trains.
From November 2020 through January 2021, monthly US LNG export volumes were almost three times higher than the monthly export volumes in the summer months of 2020, EIA said.
The recent significant increase in US LNG exports has been driven by rising international natural gas and LNG prices, particularly in Asia, following a sustained period of significantly-below-normal temperatures in the key LNG-consuming countries in northeast Asia, as well as reduced global LNG supply caused by unplanned outages at several LNG export facilities worldwide.
EIA forecasts that US LNG exports will average 9.8 Bcf/d in February 2021, before declining to seasonal lows in the shoulder months, and will average 8.5 Bcf/d and 9.2 Bcf/d on an annual basis in 2021 and in 2022, respectively.
Weekly LNG exports rise
The US exported in total twenty-two LNG cargoes in the week ending February 3 while feed gas deliveries to liquefaction plants averaged 10.9 billion cubic feet.
Compared to the last week, natural gas deliveries to US LNG export plants increased some 0.88 Bcf/d while shipments rose by four, EIA said.
Looking at the weekly shipments in detail, five US terminals dispatched the twenty-two cargoes during the week of January 28-February 3. The total capacity of LNG vessels carrying these cargoes is 80 Bcf.
This compares eighteen cargoes with the vessels’ capacity of 65 Bcf in the week before.
Moreover, Cheniere’s Sabine Pass plant sent nine shipments in the week under review while its Corpus Christi plant dispatched three cargoes.
Cameron and the Freeport terminal exported four cargoes of the fuel, each, during the observed week. Cove Point sent two shipments.
Compared to the previous week, the Henry Hub spot price rose from $2.71/MMBtu last Wednesday to a low of $2.91/MMBtu two days ago, after reaching a high of $3.18/MMBtu on Tuesday, EIA said.