U.S. saw jump in LNG exports in 2020

By Jack Burke15 March 2021

Lower China tariffs one key to growth

U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) increased 32% in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest figures.

The U.S. exported an average of 6.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d). U.S. LNG exports were relatively high from January through May. In the summer months, they declined to record lows following dropping international natural gas and LNG prices. By October, U.S. LNG exports started to increase again, despite brief interruptions caused by Hurricanes Laura and Delta. In November and December 2020, U.S. LNG exports reached all-time highs. U.S. LNG was exported to 37 countries, a record number, and Asia overtook Europe to become the main export destination in 2020.

 
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LNG exports to Asia increased 67% in 2020 compared with 2019, accounting for almost half, or 3.1 Bcf/d, of all U.S. LNG exports. U.S. LNG exports to China averaged 0.6 Bcf/d in 2020—after China lowered tariffs on imports of LNG from the United States from 25% to 10%—the largest increase by country. In 2019, when tariffs were at 25%, only two U.S. LNG cargoes were shipped to China. India increased imports of U.S. LNG by an average of 0.1 Bcf/d, especially in the spring and summer when LNG prices were at record lows. U.S. LNG exports to Japan grew by 0.2 Bcf/d, primarily in the fourth quarter of 2020 because of seasonal winter demand and new long-term contracts.

U.S. LNG exports to Europe averaged 2.5 Bcf/d, an increase of 0.6 Bcf/d compared with 2019. Europe had been the main destination for U.S. LNG exports in 2019, accounting for 39% of U.S. LNG exports. In 2020, U.S. LNG exports to Turkey increased by 0.3 Bcf/d and to the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, and Lithuania by 0.1 Bcf/d each.

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