From January through June of 2019, US net natural gas exports averaged 4.1 billion ft3/d, more than double the average net exports in 2018 (2 billion ft3/d), according to data in the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Natural Gas Monthly. The US became a net natural gas exporter (exported more than it imported) on an annual basis in 2017 for the first time in almost 60 years.
The US exports natural gas by pipeline to neighbouring Canada and Mexico and exports LNG to several other countries. Much of the recent increase in total exports is a result of more LNG facilities coming online. Total US exports of LNG through the first half of 2019 were 37% higher compared with the same period in 2018. Total US LNG export capacity as of June 2019 was 5.4 billion ft3/d across four facilities and nine liquefaction trains.
Two new liquefaction units – referred to as trains – came online in the first half of 2019: Cameron LNG Train 1 in Louisiana and Corpus Christi LNG Train 2 in Texas. Cameron LNG was the fourth US LNG export facility placed into service since February 2016. Cameron LNG, which will have a capacity of 1.7 billion ft3/d when its three liquefaction trains are completed, shipped its first cargo in May 2019 (as part of the initial commissioning process) and then another one in June before ramping up operations in July and August. Corpus Christi LNG Train 2, with a capacity of 600 million ft3/d, shipped its first cargo in July and reached substantial completion in September.
More LNG facilities have come online in the second half of 2019: the first train at Freeport LNG in Texas, with a capacity of 700 million ft3/d, and the first ten trains at Elba Island in Georgia, with a capacity of 30 million ft3/d. These two new LNG export facilities, along with the completion of Cameron LNG, will increase US LNG export capacity to 8.9 billion ft3/d by the end of 2020 from 4.9 billion ft3/d at the end of 2018.
Although US LNG exports have grown substantially, most US natural gas trade is transported via pipeline across shared borders with Canada and Mexico. In the first half of 2019, net exports of natural gas by pipeline to Mexico grew by 5%, and net exports of natural gas by pipeline to Canada remained relatively flat. In every month from April through August, US natural gas exports by pipeline have exceeded natural gas imports by pipeline, the longest consecutive stretch of exporting more natural gas by pipeline than importing by pipeline on record.
US pipeline export capacity to Canada grew in the last few months of 2018 when the second phase of both the Rover pipeline and the new NEXUS pipeline entered service, transporting natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica plays in the Appalachian Basin to the St. Clair point of exit northeast of Detroit, Michigan. Total US natural gas exports to Canada reached 3.3 billion ft3/d in February 2019, the highest level this year as of August 2019.
US pipeline net exports of natural gas to Mexico in the first half of 2019 averaged 4.9 billion ft3/d, 400 million ft3/d higher than the average for the first half of 2018. Pipeline deliveries to Mexico grew in 2019 as new projects such as the Texas-Tuxpan pipeline transported natural gas from the US Permian Basin to demand centres in Mexico. US natural gas exports by pipeline to Mexico reached all-time highs of 5.2 billion ft3/d in June 2019 and 5.3 billion ft3/d in July 2019.
According to EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook, net natural gas exports are expected to continue rising through the end of 2019 as additional LNG export capacity comes online and natural gas pipeline infrastructure in Mexico is placed into service. EIA expects the United States to continue to export more than it imports with net natural gas exports averaging 4.6 billion ft3/d in 2019 and 7.2 billion ft3/d in 2020.
Principal contributor: Kristen Tsai
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