Since the fall of 2020, the United States has significantly boosted its liquefied natural gas exports to the top LNG-importing region, Asia, to the point of setting record highs in recent weeks and competing with Qatar for supplying the fuel to the biggest LNG buyers.
Below-normal winter temperatures in north Asia—the home of the world’s top three LNG importers Japan, China, and South Korea—led to high demand for gas in recent months, while the recovery of industrial activities from the pandemic also helped to push up demand.
According to estimates from Refinitiv cited by Reuters, American exports of LNG to the top three importing nations reached 3.2 million tons in February 2021, which was two and a half times the previous highest monthly export levels.
U.S. LNG exports to Asia were already surging last year compared to 2019, despite the pandemic and the lull in demand in the spring and summer months, when U.S. exports and liquefaction volumes were very low.
U.S. exports of LNG to Asia surged by 67 percent in 2020 as total LNG exports out of the United States jumped by 32 percent, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said last month. American LNG exports to Asia surged by 67 percent last year, and accounted for nearly half—or 3.1 Bcf/d—of all LNG exports out of the United States, according to EIA data.
LNG exports continued to soar into 2021, and American LNG even gave Qatar a run for its money in Japan. However, the U.S. gas is more expensive on a per heating unit basis than Qatar’s, Reuters noted, citing official data.
LNG demand will continue to surge in Asia, but Qatar is making its move to expand its global market share with low-cost gas and a huge expansion in capacity, which will be difficult to beat in terms of costs for new projects, including those planned in the United States.
“I think American projects are now going to have to review their costs. The new projects will not be able to compete with the Qataris,” a gas industry participant told Reuters.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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