US LNG Exports Reach Record Levels in Consecutive Months
Citing shipping data from Bloomberg Finance, the US EIA estimates that LNG exports set consecutive records in October and November 2019. Through the first 11 months of the year, US LNG exports have gone up 61% from their 2018 annual average.
US LNG exports set records in the past two months. According to estimates from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) based on shipping data provided by Bloomberg Finance, LNG exports 5.8 Bcf/D with 52 exported cargoes in October and rising to 6.3 Bcf/D with 55 exported cargoes in November. From January to November 2019, US LNG exports averaged 4.8 Bcf/D, a 61% increase over the 2018 annual average, helping the US to become the third-largest LNG exporter in the world.
The EIA said that increased liquefaction capacity has been the primary driver in LNG export growth. Cameron LNG and Freeport LNG placed their first trains in service this year, Corpus Christi LNG commissioned its second train in July, and Elba Island began LNG production from the first five of its MMLS units and is currently loading first export cargo. The EIA estimates that US LNG nominal liquefaction capacity in operation is around 6.1 Bcf/D baseload (7.5 Bcf/D peak) across six facilities and 15 trains (10 standard-size liquefaction trains and 5 small modular liquefaction units).
Natural gas feedstock deliveries to US LNG export facilities have been the fastest growing consumption sector for US natural gas in 2019, increasing by 2.8 Bcf/D between January and November, based on pipeline flow data provided by IHS Markit. Feedstock deliveries exceeded 6 Bcf/D for the first time in July, averaged 7.4 Bcf/D in November, and exceeded 8.3 Bcf/D in the second week of December as Freeport LNG started production from its second train. EIA expects feedstock deliveries to continue to increase as the remaining trains at Freeport, Cameron, and Elba Island are placed in service in 2020, followed by the third train at Corpus Christi in 2021.
From January through November, EIA estimated that capacity utilization of US liquefaction facilities averaged 93% baseload, or 81% peak. Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi had the highest utilization of production capacity among US LNG export facilities, at 105% and 91% baseload capacity, respectively, over the 11-month period. Cheniere Energy, the operator of Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi, filed applications with the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioning (FERC) requesting authorization to increase operational capacity of the two terminals. Cameron LNG ramped up baseload production capacity to 77% in November, and Freeport LNG ramped up production to 50% in October and November after commissioning Train 1 in September.