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U.S. LNG Export Capacity Set to be World’s Third-Largest Next Year, EIA Says

With two more liquefaction trains expected to send out their first liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes in the next few weeks and two other export facilities in the commissioning phase, the United States is on pace to have the third-largest export capacity in the world by the end of 2019, more than doubling its current export capacity to 8.9 Bcf/d, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA.)

Train 5 at Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG export facility, which began producing in late October, and Train 1 at the company’s Corpus Christi facility, which began producing in mid-November, are set to become the latest in a wave of LNG export facilities in the United States, where current export capacity sits at 3.6 Bcf/d.

Meanwhile, first production is expected in the first half of 2019 at the Cameron LNG facility in Louisiana and at the Freeport LNG facility in Texas, with all three trains at Cameron and two trains at Freeport expected to be in full operation thereafter. The second train at Corpus Christi LNG is also scheduled to be placed in service in 2Q2019.

First production from the first of 10 trains at the Elba Island LNG facility near Savannah, GA, is also expected early next year, with production from the remaining nine trains expected to commence sequentially through the rest of 2019. Elba Island LNG consists of 10 small modular liquefaction units with a combined capacity of 0.33 Bcf/d.

The United States began exporting LNG from the Lower 48 states in February 2016, when Sabine Pass shipped its first cargo. Dominion Energy’s Cove Point LNG facility in Maryland became the second LNG export facility in the United States when it exported its first cargo in March.

Meanwhile, U.S. LNG exports continue to increase with the growing export capacity. EIA’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook expects U.S. LNG exports to average 2.9 Bcf/d in 2018 and 5.2 Bcf/d in 2019 as the new liquefaction trains are gradually commissioned and ramp up production to operate at full capacity.

Four additional export terminals -- Magnolia LNG, Delfin LNG, Lake Charles and Golden Pass -- and the sixth train at Sabine Pass have been approved by both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy, and final investment decisions are expected in the coming months. The proposed projects represent a combined additional LNG export capacity of 7.6 Bcf/d, according to EIA.

The growing LNG export capacity comes as the shale revolution continues to shake up oil and gas supply, enabling the United States to pull away from the rest of the field as the world’s largest oil and gas producer, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“By 2025, nearly every fifth barrel of oil and every fourth cubic meter of gas in the world will come from the United States," IEA said.

The United States is forecast to contribute 40% of global natural gas production by 2025 and nearly 75% of oil growth in the next six years, driven mainly by unconventional onshore supplies, the IEA said in its World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2018. Natural gas is also the fastest growing fossil fuel in the WEO’s New Policies Scenario, the agency’s central outlook. Gas is forecast to overtake coal by 2030 to become the second-largest source of energy, after oil.

BP’s 2018 Energy Outlook projected oil and gas would account for 40% of energy demand in 2040, and that LNG exports would be “dominated by the U.S. and Qatar, which account for almost half of global LNG exports by 2040.” Meanwhile, U.S. gas production to 2040 is seen increasing to 118 Bcf/d, up by 46 Bcf/d.

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