The U.S. Is Now The World’s Largest LNG Exporter
Renewables tend to be considered the golden ticket for reaching American decarbonization goals, but liquified natural gas (LNG) – the “cleanest fossil fuel” in existence – is starting to steal the spotlight. The U.S. recently became the world’s largest LNG exporter, topping fellow LNG titans Qatar and Australia’s exports by a hair.
What’s The Lowdown With LNG?
Liquefied natural gas is natural gas that has been cooled to a liquid state at around -260° Fahrenheit. It’s cooled and liquified for easy storage and shipping from producing regions to markets: LNG’s volume is about 600 times smaller than its volume in its gaseous state in a natural gas pipeline.
LNG is a fossil fuel made over millions of years through the transformation of organic materials like plankton and algae. The combustion of natural gas primarily emits water vapor and only trace amounts of carbon dioxide, making it the fossil fuel with the least environmental impact — LNG emits about 30% to 50% fewer emissions than traditional fossil fuels do. As a result, LNG is facilitating the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy as the world works to meet its net-zero goals. LNG’s role as a proverbial stepping stone to renewables is especially true across several regions in Africa, where energy providers can “leapfrog” over traditional fossil fuels and directly into renewables because of a currently-standing lack of fossil fuel infrastructure.
Liquified natural gas may not be on the radar of everyday energy consumers, but it’s worth knowing what the U.S.’s heightened LNG exports mean for the rest of the world.
U.S. LNG Exports Rise To Meet International Demand
In response to the rising global demand for liquified natural gas, the U.S. is stepping up to the plate. The country became the world’s largest LNG producer in December, thanks to a jump in exports from the Sabine Pass and Freeport Facilities near the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. is serious about not giving up its crown as the world’s top exporter; Sabine Pass is projected to add up to 0.76 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of peak export capacity by the end of 2022. According to Bloomberg, January of this year alone saw a whopping 7.3 million tons of American LNG exports.
Cheniere Energy is the largest American exporter of LNG. In recent months, the corporation has signed numerous long-term deals to sell LNG in hopes of securing the financing needed to ramp up additional multibillion dollar projects.
The expansion of LNG exports out of the U.S. provides global communities with greater access to an abundant, reasonably-priced resource that’s easing the world’s current supply crunch. Last winter, Europe faced an energy crisis as utilities grappled with low natural gas inventories. In December, overseas buyers purchased 13% of U.S. gas production in December, a seven-fold increase from five years earlier. Back then, most of the infrastructure required to ship the fuel out of the country didn’t even yet exist.
Here on American soil, LNG exports are hiking domestic gas prices. While this may be unwelcome news, the flip side is that it could accelerate the adoption of renewables and speed up the pathway to meeting President Biden’s renewable energy goals.
Last Words About LNG
While liquified natural gas isn’t a perfect solution to the climate crisis, it can certainly help accelerate the transition and provide much-needed energy resources to the parts of the world currently in need, particularly in Europe. The U.S. is projected to remain the biggest LNG exporter by capacity until around 2025, when Qatar could regain the lead as its North Field expansion starts to enter service. However, if more U.S. developers start building new LNG export plants, it may be harder for other nations to topple the first place crown from the U.S.
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