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US LNG export capacity set to be the world’s largest in 2022

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Since exports of LNG began from the Lower 48 states in February 2016, US LNG export capacity has grown rapidly. Within four years, the US became the world’s third-largest LNG exporter behind only Australia and Qatar. Once the new LNG liquefaction units (called trains) at Sabine Pass LNG and Calcasieu Pass LNG are placed in service in 2022, US LNG export capacity will become the world’s largest.

According to announced project plans, the following U.S. LNG export capacity expansions will occur between December 2021 and fall 2022:

  • Completion of Train 6 at the Sabine Pass LNG export facility: Train 6 will add up to 0.76 billion ft3/day of peak export capacity. Train 6 began producing LNG in late November 2021 and the first export cargo from this train is expected to be shipped before the end of 2021.
  • Increase in LNG production at Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi LNG terminals as a result of optimising operations: the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved an increase in annual LNG production at these two facilities by a combined 261 billion ft3/yr or 0.7 billion ft3/day (11.5%) through uprates and modifications to maintenance. Individually, FERC granted approval to increase LNG production at Sabine Pass LNG from 1509 billion ft3/yr to 1662 billion ft3/yr across six liquefaction trains, an increase of 10%. FERC approved an LNG production increase at Corpus Christi LNG from 767 billion ft3/yr to 875 billion ft3/yr across three trains currently in operation, an increase of 14%.
  • New LNG export facility Calcasieu Pass LNG in Louisiana comes online: the project consists of 9 blocks, each containing 2 mid-scale modular liquefaction units for a total of 18 liquefaction units with a combined peak capacity of 1.6 billion ft3/day. Commissioning activities at Calcasieu Pass LNG started in November 2021, and the first LNG production is expected before the end of 2021. All units are expected to be placed in service by the 4Q22.

It is estimated that, as of November 2021, existing US LNG nominal baseload liquefaction capacity was 9.5 6 billion ft3/day and peak capacity was 11.6 6 billion ft3/day (which includes uprates to LNG production capacity at Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi). By the end of 2022, US nominal capacity will increase to 11.4 6 billion ft3/day and peak capacity to 13.9 6 billion ft3/day across seven LNG export facilities and 44 liquefaction trains, including 16 full-scale, 18 mid-scale, and 10 small-scale trains at Sabine Pass, Cove Point, Corpus Christi, Cameron, Elba Island, Freeport, and Calcasieu Pass.

In 2022, US LNG export capacity will exceed that of the two current largest global LNG exporters, Australia (11.4 6 billion ft3/day) and Qatar (10.3 6 billion ft3/day). By 2024, when Golden Pass LNG – the eighth US LNG export facility – completes construction and begins operations, US LNG peak export capacity will further increase to an estimated 16.3 6 billion ft3/day.

In addition, FERC and the US Department of Energy have approved another 10 US LNG export projects and capacity expansions at three existing LNG terminals – Cameron, Freeport, and Corpus Christi – totalling 25 6 billion ft3/day of new capacity. Developers of some of these projects announced plans to make a final investment decision (FID) in 2022.

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