LNG Exports Helped Drive Historic U.S. Trade Surplus in Energy

File image courtesy Freeport LNG

Published Sep 22, 2021 11:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

Thanks in large part to LNG sales, America exported more energy than it imported last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. It is the first time that the U.S. has recorded a net energy-trade surplus since at least 1974, the first year in the U.S. Census Bureau's trade value data. 

In 2020, the trade balance of America's energy products - petroleum, natural gas, coal, and electricity exports - ran a net surplus of $27 billion. That compares very favorably with the record-setting $938 billion deficit for non-energy goods that American consumers and businesses rang up last year.

Those numbers are still on track this year. Through the first half of 2021, the U.S. net trade value of energy came in with a surplus of $9 billion; non-energy trade ran a deficit of $505 billion, driven ever higher by unprecedented consumer demand for foreign-made goods. 

The majority of last year's gains were in natural gas exports, which contributed a net surplus of $26 billion (above). America's natural gas exports hit a record 5.3 trillion cubic feet in 2020, and nearly half of that amount left the country through the LNG liquefaction plants on the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast. 

The U.S. trade in petroleum still had a net deficit of $3 billion, despite gains in export volumes and declining imports. Even if not in positive territory, it was the smallest deficit on record.