US exports of LNG continued to grow in 2020, averaging 6.5 billion ft3/d day on an annual basis, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) ‘Natural Gas Monthly’.
LNG exports increased 1.5 billion ft3/d day, or 31%, compared with 2019 levels. US LNG exports were relatively high from January through May. In the summer months, they declined to record lows following record declines in international natural gas and LNG prices. By October, US LNG exports started to increase again, despite brief interruptions caused by Hurricanes Laura and Delta.
In November and December 2020, US LNG exports reached all-time highs. US LNG was exported to 38 countries, a record number, and Asia overtook Europe to become the main export destination in 2020.
LNG exports to Asia increased 67% in 2020 compared with 2019, accounting for almost half, or 3.1 billion ft3/d day, of all US LNG exports. US LNG exports to China averaged 0.6 billion ft3/d day in 2020 — after China lowered tariffs on imports of LNG from the US from 25% to 10% — the largest increase by country. In 2019, when tariffs were at 25%, only two US LNG cargoes were shipped to China. India increased imports of US LNG by an average of 0.1 billion ft3/d day, especially in the spring and summer when LNG prices were at record lows. US LNG exports to Japan grew by 0.2 billion ft3/d day, primarily in 4Q20 because of seasonal winter demand.
US LNG exports to Europe averaged 2.5 billion ft3/d day, an increase of 0.6 billion ft/d day compared with 2019. Europe had been the main destination for US LNG exports in 2019, accounting for 39% of US LNG exports. In 2020, US LNG exports to Turkey increased by 0.3 billion ft3/d day and to the UK, Spain, Greece, and Lithuania by 0.1 billion ft3/d day each.
US LNG exports to several countries in Latin America (Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Mexico) and the Middle East (Jordan and the UAE) declined by a combined 0.5 billion ft3/d day in 2020 compared with 2019. US LNG exports to Mexico declined by 0.3 billion ft3/d day because of COVID-19 mitigation efforts that reduced demand for natural gas. Growing U.S. exports by pipeline to Mexico also displaced more expensive LNG imports. In contrast, Brazil more than doubled its US LNG imports — an average annual increase of 0.2 billion ft3/d day — as a result of drought conditions that limited hydroelectric power generation and increased demand for natural gas-fired power generation.
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