Photo: Klaipedos Nafta.

By Annie Cook

The Americans have overtaken the Australians and Qataris in terms of LNG exports.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s projections for the end of 2021 have been confirmed. In December, the US for the first time became the world’s largest LNG exporter. According to Bloomberg data, Americans shipped as many as 1,043 cargoes of gas last year, almost half of which went to Asia and a third to Europe.

The American success is the result of the so-called ‘shale revolution.’ The growing exploration of shale deposits, as well as the spread of hydraulic fracturing combined with infrastructure development have transformed the United States from an LNG importer to the world’s largest LNG exporter over the past decade.

Despite the increase in exports, most US LNG is still destined for the domestic market. Only 13 per cent of total production has been shipped abroad. But the role of exports is growing: its level in December was seven times higher than five years ago. LNG production in the States has also increased: by as much as 70 per cent compared to 2010.

In particular, the expansion of the US gas infrastructure is responsible for the increase in export capacity. The completion of the Calcasieu Pass export terminal in Louisiana is expected to secure a top position in LNG exports in the short term. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, this is expected to make the US a long-term export leader by 2025.

The Americans have to reckon with competition. Their export levels are marginally higher than Australia’s and Qatar’s. Qatar in particular could prove to be a strong rival, as it plans to increase its export and production capacity by the end of the 2020s. This is expected to boost Qatar’s LNG production capacity by 30%.