Close to a record number of liquefied natural gas tankers are crowding Gulf Coast export terminals as U.S. exports of the superchilled fuels run at record rates.
Reuters reported that Gulf Coast liquefaction facilities are operating near capacity thanks to strong demand, especially from Europe, which is currently trying to replenish its exhausted gas reserves.
Citing data from Refinitiv Eikon, Reuters wrote that some 27 LNG tankers were either on their way to Gulf Coast export terminals or already there. As a result, liquefied natural gas exports could reach 6.47 million tons this month, according to Kpler, beating the previous monthly record of 6.3 million tons set in January.
Europe has morphed into the biggest market for U.S. liquefied natural gas over the past three months, as concern about the geopolitical tensions around Ukraine prompted the EU to seek alternatives to Russian gas in case Moscow turned off the taps, even though Moscow has repeatedly said that it has no such plans.
As a result of the surge in demand for U.S. LNG, the country overtook Qatar to become the world's largest exporter of the commodity. U.S. LNG is one of the European Union's preferred alternatives to Russian pipeline gas, whose consumption the union is trying to cut by two-thirds within a year.
Last week, the chief executive of the largest U.S. natural gas producer, EQT, said the United States could easily replace Russian gas, which last year accounted for 45 percent of total EU gas imports.
"We've got the ability to do more, the desire to do more," EQT's Toby Rice told the BBC, estimating that the United States had enough gas to quadruple current output by 2030.
However, environmentalists have been quick to protest the increase in LNG exports, with a coalition of more than a hundred organizations calling on banks to stop financing LNG export terminal projects. Environmentalist protests, according to a Reuters report, have led to the shelving of an interagency review on ways to boost LNG exports to Europe.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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