U.S. LNG exports back on rising track, reached record in March

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Storage tanks and gas-chilling units are seen at Freeport LNG, the second-largest exporter of U.S. liquified natural gas, near Freeport, Texas, U.S., February 11, 2023. Reuters/Arathy Somasekhar/File Photo
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By Marianna Parraga

HOUSTON (Reuters) – U.S. producers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) last month regained momentum as the country’s second-largest exporter Freeport LNG ramped up output, sending total shipments to an all-time record of 7.73 million tonnes, Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Monday.

Freeport LNG’s facility in Texas, which had suspended operations after a fire last year, exited an eight-month outage in February and on Monday was on track to pull in about 2.2 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of gas, above its nameplate capacity, pushing up the country’s overall processing rates.

A total of 108 cargoes departed U.S. ports last month carrying 7.73 million tonnes of LNG, above the previous record of 7.67 million tonnes a year ago, according to Refinitiv Eikon trade flows data.

Europe was again the main destination for U.S. LNG exports, receiving almost 71% of total cargoes, while Asia received 1.32 million tonnes, or 17%. The production recovery allowed exporters to boost shipments to Latin America and the Caribbean, which last month received 4.5% of U.S. exports, the highest since September.

Average gas flows to all seven big U.S. LNG export plants have risen to 14.1 bcfd so far in April, up from a record 13.2 bcfd in March, signaling the export gains will continue in the weeks to come.

Despite the rising supply to LNG facilities, U.S. gas futures dropped about 4% on Monday on increasing natural gas output and forecasts for milder weather, which typically implies less demand for heating fuels. That balance between offer and demand is expected to allow U.S. utilities to start injecting gas into stockpiles this week.

In a note to clients last month, consultancy Rystad Energy said it expects domestic gas demand to stay subdued as warmer weather patterns emerge in the coming months.

“A material rebound in gas supply levels will be necessary to keep pace with rising LNG exports,” said Rystad Energy Vice President Emily McClain. “But with healthy gas storage levels and warmer weather trends, our outlook for domestic gas markets remains diminished as we head into the spring injections season.”

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