US LNG Exports Reach Record High in Dec
High Asian LNG demand and production outages elsewhere helped send US exports to another record level in December. They averaged 9.8bn ft3/day according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), which based its estimates on shipping data provided by Bloomberg Finance.
Shipments were more than three times higher than in the summer, when they were curtailed by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The previous record of 9.3bn ft3/d was set in November.
"LNG demand increased due to colder-than-normal winter temperatures in key Asian LNG-consuming markets," the EIA said in a note. "Moreover, supplies of LNG decreased because of unplanned outages at LNG export facilities in Australia, Malaysia, Qatar, Norway, Nigeria and Trinidad & Tobago."
This cut in supply has bolstered international gas prices and LNG prices in Asia and Europe, the EIA said, spurring increased flexible supplies from the US. The price recovery began in August and by December, prices were more than four times higher than the summer lows, it said.
The S&P Global Platts' spot LNG price for front-month delivery to northeast Asia, the Japan Korea Marker (JKM), averaged $10.82/mn Btu in December, while the price at the Dutch TTF hub averaged $5.80/mn Btu. The JKM had reached $15.10/mn Btu by December 31, marking a seven-year high.
The bulk of US LNG exports are destination-free, enabling offtakers to ship the gas to whichever markets offer the highest price. Since June over 50% of US exports have gone to Asia and about 30% to Europe. The EIA expects US supplies to remain high throughout the winter, averaging 9.5bn ft3/d in the first quarter and 8.5bn ft3/d over 2021 as a whole, up 30% year on year.