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U.S. Became the World's Biggest LNG Exporter in 2023

Freeport LNG plant
File image courtesy Freeport LNG

Published Jan 2, 2024 7:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

According to energy analysts, the United States now leads the world in selling domestic natural gas to overseas customers, thanks to the rapid expansion of LNG liquefaction terminals on the U.S. Gulf Coast. 

The pace of U.S. exports jumped 15 percent year-on-year in 2023, driven by the commissioning of a new plant and the completion of repairs at another mega-facility. The rate of growth has outdistanced the exports of Australia and Qatar, the world's other leading LNG producers. However, the U.S has stiff competition: Qatar is ramping up for a massive expansion of its liquefaction facilities, enough to increase its output by two-thirds by the end of the decade. 

In December alone, about eight million tonnes of American natural gas departed from LNG terminals for buyers in Europe and Asia, withdrawing 390 billion cubic feet (bcf) from the U.S. domestic market. This accounted for about 12 percent of all American gas production for the month. 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) assesses that “higher LNG exports result in upward pressure on U.S. natural gas prices," and LNG production was responsible in part for high domestic natural gas prices in 2022. In projections for 2050, high LNG exports could boost the price of natural gas for American households by as much as 30 percent when compared to a low-export scenario, EIA found.

Higher exports are expected. 17 more LNG plants are on track to be built in the U.S. by 2028, and seven more are awaiting permitting decisions from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Depending on global gas prices, this could double U.S. LNG exports by the early 2030s, EIA assesses.