During the first four months of 2022, the US exported 74% of its LNG to Europe, compared with an annual average of 34% in 2021, according to our recently released Natural Gas Monthly and EIA estimates for April 2022. In 2020 and 2021, Asia had been the main destination for US LNG exports, accounting for almost half of the total exports.
US LNG exports averaged 11.5 billion ft3/d during the first four months of 2022, an 18% increase compared with the 2021 annual average. The increase in US LNG exports was driven by additional export capacity at Sabine Pass (Train 6) and Calcasieu Pass (first five blocks) that came online in 2022 and by high LNG demand, particularly in Europe.
Since December 2021, the EU and the UK have been importing record-high levels of LNG, primarily because of low natural gas storage inventories. High spot natural gas prices at the European trading hubs incentivised global LNG market participants with destination flexibility in their contracts to deliver more LNG supplies to Europe. Additional LNG imports in Europe and a mild winter offset lower natural gas pipeline imports from Russia.
The US became the largest LNG supplier to the EU and UK in 2021, accounting for 26% of total imports. In the first four months of 2022, LNG imports from the US to the EU and the UK have more than tripled, compared with 2021, averaging 7.3 billion ft3/d and accounting for 49% of total imports, according to data from CEDIGAZ. LNG imports from Russia and Qatar accounted for 14% each (2.1 billion ft3/d).
During the first four months of 2022, US LNG exports to Asia declined by 51%, averaging 2.3 billion ft3/d compared with 4.6 billion ft3/d (annual average) in 2021. China and South Korea were top destinations for US LNG exports in 2021. In 2022, however, China received only six LNG cargoes from the US in January – April 2022 (0.2 billion ft3/d, compared with 1.2 billion ft3/d in 2021) because pandemic-related lockdown measures, as well as a mild winter and high LNG spot prices, reduced demand for spot LNG imports. US LNG exports to South Korea and Japan also declined by 0.6 billion ft3/d and 0.5 billion ft3/d, respectively.
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