US Will Lead in LNG Export Capacity by End of 2022

New projects coming on line throughout the year will vault the nation ahead of Australia and Qatar.

A sixth production train at Sabine Pass LNG began producing LNG in late November 2021.

New LNG liquefaction trains at Sabine Pass and Calcasieu Pass in Louisiana due in service prior to year-end will result in the US having the world’s largest LNG export capacity, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). US export capacity has grown rapidly since the Lower 48 states first began exporting LNG in February 2016.

In 2019, the US became the world’s third-largest LNG exporter, behind Australia and Qatar. Average utilization for US LNG plants climbed from 43% in third quarter of 2020 to 98% a year later, according to IHS Markit.

The following new LNG export capacity additions will come on line by the end of 2022, according to announced project plans:

Train 6 at the Sabine Pass LNG export facility will add up to 0.76 Bcf/D of peak export capacity. Train 6 began producing LNG in late November; the first export cargo from this train shipped before the end of 2021.

Calcasieu Pass LNG has 18 liquefaction trains with a combined peak capacity of 12 million mtpa (1.6 Bcf/D). Commissioning activities started in November 2021. All liquefaction trains are expected to be operational by the end of 2022.

In October 2021, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved requests to increase authorized LNG production at the Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi LNG terminals by a combined 261 billion ft3 per year (0.7 Bcf/D). The terminals will achieve these increases by optimizing operations, including production up-rates and modifications to maintenance.

As of November 2021, the EIA estimated that US LNG nominal liquefaction capacity was 9.5 Bcf/D and peak capacity was 11.6 Bcf/D. This peak capacity includes up-rates to LNG production capacity at Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi.

By the end of 2022, US nominal capacity is expected to increase to 11.4 Bcf/D, and peak capacity will increase to 13.9 Bcf/D, exceeding capacities of the two largest LNG exporters, Australia (which has an estimated peak LNG production capacity of 11.4 Bcf/D) and Qatar (peak capacity of 10.4 Bcf/D). In 2024, when construction on Golden Pass LNG—the eighth US LNG export facility—is completed and the facility begins operations, US LNG peak export capacity will further increase to an estimated 16.3 Bcf/D.

Elsewhere, NextDecade has again delayed its final investment decision for its Rio Grande LNG project near Brownsville, Texas. The decision is now expected during the second half of the year. The $15.7-billion project, which would produce 27 million mtpa at full capacity, has been twice delayed since 2020. It was originally expected to start producing LNG in 2023.

On the import front, Mainland China has already become the top global importer of LNG. Imports reached 81 million tons in 2021 (an increase of 12.3 million tons, or 18%), overtaking Japan where imports were flat year-over-year at 75 million tons. This marks the first time since the early 1970s that Japan has not been the world’s largest LNG importer, according to IHS Markit.