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US natural gas exports set record

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The US exported more natural gas in the first half of 2023 (1H23) than it did in the same period of any previous year. Natural gas exports averaged 20.4 billion ft3/d, 4% (0.8 billion ft3/d) more than in 1H22, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s ‘Natural Gas Monthly’.

LNG exports largely drove the continued growth in total natural gas exports, although natural gas exports by pipeline also increased. The US began exporting LNG from the Lower 48 states in 2016 when Sabine Pass LNG — the first LNG export terminal in the Lower 48 states — came online.

The US became a net natural gas exporter (natural gas exports exceeded natural gas imports) in 2017 for the first time since 1957. In May 2023, US net natural gas exports as LNG and by pipeline averaged a monthly record of 13.6 billion ft3/d.

LNG exports

In 1H23, US LNG exports averaged 11.6 billion ft3/d, making the US the world’s top LNG exporting country. US LNG exports in 1H23 increased 4% (0.5 billion ft3/d) compared with the same period in 2022, despite declining in May and June.

Exports by pipeline

In 1H23, US natural gas pipeline exports to Canada and Mexico increased 4% (0.3 billion ft3/d) compared with 1H22, averaging 8.8 billion ft3/d. Net natural gas exports by pipeline, particularly to Mexico, contributed to record-high natural gas exports. US natural gas exports by pipeline to Mexico reached a monthly high of 6.8 billion ft3/d in June and accounted for about 66% of total US pipeline exports from January through June.

Mexico increased natural gas imports from the US in 1H23 to meet electric power sector demand, which has been increasing since 2018. Since 2019, natural gas pipeline exports from West Texas to Mexico have grown steadily as more connecting pipelines in Central and Southwest Mexico have been placed in service.

Although the US is a net natural gas exporter, it still imports natural gas, largely by pipeline.

Imports by pipeline

US natural gas imports by pipeline, which are primarily from Canada, declined by 5% (0.4 billion ft3/d) in 1H23 compared with 1H22, to 7.9 billion ft3/d. Imports from Canada help support seasonal fluctuations in natural gas consumption in the US and generally peak in January or February, with a smaller peak in the summer months. A mild winter, combined with wildfires in Western Canada that disrupted natural gas deliveries to the US this spring, contributed to lower natural gas imports in 1H23 compared with 1H22.

LNG imports

US LNG imports averaged less than 0.1 billion ft3/d in 1H23. Almost all LNG imports are delivered to the New England market, where imports can be a key marginal source of natural gas supply during periods of high demand, particularly in the winter months. Warmer-than-average temperatures in the Northeast in the 1Q23 contributed to lower LNG imports compared with the same time in 2022.

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