After sinking to their lowest levels in more than two years over the summer, U.S. liquefied natural gas exports surged to a record high in November, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The agency said U.S. LNG exports reached 9.4 Bcf/d last month, surpassing the previous record set in January on strong global demand and lower supply. That represents 93% of peak LNG export capacity utilization.
A cold start to the winter in Asia has combined with fewer restrictions amid Covid-19 to drive up gas demand, sending spot prices to two-year highs. Chilly conditions in Europe, meanwhile, have resulted in a quick drawdown in storage inventories and an increased appetite for the super-chilled fuel.
That’s a far different scenario than the summer, when an estimated 165-200 U.S. LNG cargoes were canceled because of depressed demand from the pandemic and other factors.
Global LNG supply also has fallen because of unplanned outages at LNG export facilities in Australia, Malaysia, Qatar, Norway, Nigeria, and Trinidad and Tobago, according to EIA. However, 2.7 Bcf/d of new U.S. LNG export capacity was added in 2020, the agency said, and several U.S. LNG terminals affected by hurricanes and annual maintenance have resumed LNG shipments.
Cheniere Energy Inc. is in the process of commissioning the third production unit at the Corpus Christi facility, and the ramp in production also helped elevate feed gas deliveries even further. NGI data showed flows to U.S. LNG export terminals crossing the 11 Bcf/d mark earlier this month, a level that has held fairly steady since.
Notably, the robust demand overseas has prompted some analysts to alter their view on U.S. exports for 2021. BofA Global Research analysts said this week they expect Asian spot prices to remain strong enough next summer to prevent significant U.S. LNG cargo cancellations. NGI data shows the projected arbitrages from the Gulf Coast to Asia or Europe are both at least $1.00/MMBtu for all of 2021, with significantly higher arbitrage opportunities in the winter and fall.
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