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LNG Imports Soar 29% in 2004 to 652 Bcf

Imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) soared 29% last year to 652 Bcf, or about 3% of total U.S. demand, the Office of Fossil Energy said in its fourth quarter report on Natural Gas Imports and Exports. LNG was imported from seven countries, but Trinidad made up 71% of the total. The Department of Energy is expecting LNG imports to grow another 12% this year to 730 Bcf.

LNG imports have risen 300% since 1999 and are projected to reach almost 10% of U.S. gas supply by 2010, which means imports of 2.5 Tcf, and more than 20% of supply by 2025, with imports of 6.4 Tcf, according to the Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook. The imports will be necessary to satisfy increases in demand that cannot be accommodated by domestic or other North American production of gas.

In 2002, LNG imports to the United States totaled 229 Bcf, or 6% of imported gas. In 2003, imports totaled 506 Bcf, or 13% of all imported gas - more than doubling 2002's total. Data for 2004 shows that LNG accounted for 15% of total imports -- nearly a tripling in volume in just two years, Fossil Energy said in its report.

Using LNG imports to expand gas supply can "moderate price and deliver relief to both household and industrial users," the agency said. "High-volume production and global trade in LNG constitute an emerging energy resource for the United States and the world in a time of rising demand. Present use is limited by a lack of liquefaction capacity among producing nations and a lack of import terminals among consuming nations.

Large expansions are underway in all areas, the agency noted. There are five LNG import terminals now operating in the U.S. with the addition of Excelerate's Gulf Gateways Energy Bridge in March. More than 50 additional LNG import terminals have been proposed in North America.

While LNG imports reached a new record in 2004, natural gas exports also hit a new high, Fossil Energy reported. Total U.S. gas exports rose to 854.2 Bcf. Exports to Mexico climbed to a record 397.5 Bcf.

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