The United States became the world’s largest producer of LNG in 2021, at a time of increased European demand for LNG. Europe’s need for LNG increased due to reduced purchases of fossil fuels from Russia following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia. The United States and the European Commission reached an agreement on March 25, 2022, under which the United States will strive to increase LNG deliveries to Europe by 15 bcm this year and further increase LNG volumes in future years.
Expanded U.S. LNG exports will replace about 30 percent of the LNG that EU countries previously imported from Russia. At the same time, the United States and the European Commission agreed to try to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of LNG infrastructure and overall demand for natural gas, by deploying clean energy measures.
The United States has greatly increased its ability to export LNG in recent years. On April 27, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) granted increased export authorizations to two LNG export projects. The DOE’s orders allow Golden Pass LNG to export an additional 0.35 bcf per day of LNG and Magnolia LNG to export an additional 0.15 bcf per day, to any country not specifically prohibited by U.S. law or policy.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicted in April 2022 that the United States will export 12.19 bcf per day of LNG this year, up from 9.76 bcf per day in 2021. The EIA also predicted that U.S. LNG exports will further increase to 12.64 bcf per day in 2023. EIA estimates have been increasing – its March 2022 prediction was that the United States would export 11.34 bcf per day of LNG in 2022.
Currently, the United States has eight operational LNG export facilities with a capacity of more than 13 bcf per day, with three others under construction that will expand capacity by more than 6.5 bcf per day. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved an additional 12 export facilities with a total capacity of about 21.6 bcf per day, but the project sponsors have not yet started construction on these. FERC is considering applications filed by project sponsors to construct and operate seven more export facilities, with two others in the pre-filing stage at FERC. U.S. LNG export capability has increased dramatically since 2016, when it had almost no LNG export capability, permitting the United States to become the largest exporter of LNG over a five-year period.
U.S. LNG exports are very near their limit with current infrastructure. About 98 percent of available liquefaction capacity was in use in the fourth quarter of 2021, underscoring the need for project sponsors to move forward with construction of additional LNG export facilities.
Environmental groups have expressed concerns that the increase in the U.S. LNG industry, given that natural gas is a fossil fuel, may contribute to climate change. The March 2022 agreement between the United States and the European Commission recognizes these concerns by requiring the countries to implement clean energy initiatives to reduce overall natural gas consumption. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, however, clearly has made it likely that LNG exports from the United States will remain high.