U.S. imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the first quarter rose 65% over the year-earlier period, putting the country on track to break a two-year slump in imported LNG volumes, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

An estimated 184.4 Bcf of LNG was brought into the U.S. during the first quarter, compared to 111.4 Bcf in the comparable period in 2006 and 157.3 Bcf in the same period in 2005, the Department of Energy agency said. The bulk of the first quarter LNG imports came from Trinidad/Tobago (54.3 Bcf), which was followed by Egypt (14.8 Bcf), Nigeria (9 Bcf) and Algeria (8.7 Bcf).

The EIA reported that U.S. LNG import volumes in March alone were 86.8 Bcf, up 161.4% over the 33.2 Bcf LNG volumes that were imported into the United States in March 2006. LNG imports also rose in January (53.4 Bcf) and February (44 Bcf), but by a smaller percentage.

The average price for LNG imports in 2006 was $8.94/Mcf, up from an average of $6.27/Mcf in 2005. The EIA said prices were not yet available for this year.

In January, the EIA projected that LNG imports could jump 35% this year to 2.11 Bcf/d (770 Bcf/year) from about 1.59 Bcf/d (583.5 Bcf/year) in 2006 and could rise by another 38% to 2.96 Bcf/d (1,080 Bcf) in 2008 (see Daily GPI, Jan. 12).

"EIA expects a revitalization of U.S. LNG imports during 2007 and 2008 with significant increases in year-over-year change," the agency said in a supplement to its Short Term Energy Outlook in January. "EIA's LNG import forecast is based in part on supply expansion in the global market over the coming years, including exports from up to three new source countries (Equatorial Guinea, Norway and Yemen)."

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