New LNG (liquefied natural gas) projects launching in the US look set to kick off a new era for the global industry, as the United States turns into a significant exporter. Although long-planned, the actual commissioning of plants has been somewhat of a moving target in the past – but these latest developments create the opportunity for large volumes to hit the spot market before long-term commercial contracts are formally triggered.
Analysts estimate that anywhere between 1.0 and 2.5 million tonnes of LNG will hit the spot market in the first quarter of this year, which is a significant amount in an industry still dominated by rigid multi-year supply contracts. Furthermore, it’s thought that by the end of this year, US LNG export capacity will reach 8.9 billion cubic feet per day – which will make it the third largest in the world behind Australia and Qatar.
And in a ‘second wave’ of activity, federal regulators will decide the fate of an additional 13 pending projects by the end of 2019. Issuing a memorandum of understanding, regulators agreed to streamline and speed up environmental reviews for the complex projects – which involve expansions of two export terminals, and construction of 11 new facilities.
The United States began exporting LNG from the Lower 48 states in 2016, when the Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana shipped its first cargo. Since then, the Cove Point facility began operating in Maryland, while two more trains – Sabine Pass Train 5 and Corpus Christi LNG Train 1 – began production of LNG in 2018, several months ahead of schedule. Export facilities in Louisiana (Cameron LNG) and Texas (Freeport LNG) are currently being commissioned, with the first LNG production from these facilities expected within the first half of the year. Finally, the Elba Island LNG facility near Savannah, Georgia, is also scheduled to become fully operational by the end of 2019.
US LNG has spread to all corners of the globe
As we mentioned, this industry really only started in 2016 – yet neighbouring Mexico has received 20% of all US LNG exports, with South Korea second at 19%. But it is expected that Mexico’s position will slide, as the country seeks to produce more of its own gas, and build more pipelines to gain greater access to cheaper US piped gas. Despite the fact that China has a 10% tariff on US LNG, it’s expected that American shipments globally will continue to flourish – not least as other importers are looking at more US LNG to appease President Trump in ongoing trade talks, as well as desperately seeking their flexible contracts.
When it comes to Europe, Russia has admitted that there is room for the US, as Russia doesn’t seek to cover all of Europe’s energy needs. In 2018, Polish PGNiG signed a long-term deal for LNG supplies from the US, while Germany is also looking to build its first LNG import facility to potentially access more US gas.
Ultimately, US LNG prospects are bright for the long-term. It’s projected that US gas production will grow at nearly twice the rate of US demand, leaving a huge surplus available for exportation. And that’s where BOSS Energy Consulting comes in. We offer end-to-end manpower services to every aspect of the global energy industry. Whether you’re looking for your next hire, or seeking a new role, we have access to the energy market’s most famous and innovative projects. Our proven track record and global presence means that we have an extensive database of over 20,000 qualified individuals. Whether you’re a client or a candidate, we’re keen to hear from you, so please feel free to contact us here.