U.S. imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) last year continued the downward trend that began in 2009, according to data compiled by Pan EurAsian Enterprises Inc. Last year’s imports were well less than half of what they were in 2007, the peak year for imports, and they were slightly less than the level seen in 2008.

Gross LNG imports to the United States last year totaled 348.7 Bcf or less than a Bcf/d, down from 431 Bcf in 2010 and 452 Bcf in 2009. Last year’s activity was a long way from the 770.8 Bcf imported during 2007 but not far off the 351.7 Bcf seen in 2008. The figures account for the re-export of previously imported cargoes.

“The U.S. imported the equivalent of 25.3 Bcf of natural gas in the form of LNG in December, up from 15.3 Bcf in November,” the firm said in a recent note. “There were 5.2 Bcf of re-exports (two cargoes) in December, reducing net imports to 20.1 Bcf. In total, there were 19 re-export cargoes loaded at U.S. LNG import terminals in 2011, totaling 53.4 Bcf of natural gas, or about 2.5 million cubic meters of LNG (1.2 million metric tons).”

While there are multiple proposals to export U.S. gas as LNG from the Gulf Coast, the country currently only exports domestic gas as LNG from Alaska. The state’s Kenai Peninsula terminal was nearly shut down last year by operator ConocoPhillips, which later decided to keep it open at least a short time longer to serve a producer in the region (see Daily GPI, Dec. 20, 2011).

Last year, exports from Kenai totaled 16.4 Bcf, about 7.5 million cubic meters of LNG or 3.5 million metric tons, according to Pan EurAsian.

According to Pan EurAsian, GDF Suez Gas has the largest share of the U.S. LNG market (38.8% in 2011) ahead of BG Group at 14.4%. LNG has been coming to the United States from Trinidad, Qatar, Egypt, Yemen and Norway.

Repsol, which brings natural gas into the United States that has been imported into Canada’s Canaport LNG terminal, imported three LNG cargoes in December amounting to about 13.1 Bcf (versus imports of 8.6 Bcf in November), the firm said.

GDF Suez subsidiary Distrigas of Massachusetts owns and operates the longest-operating LNG import facility in the United States in Everett, MA. The Everett LNG terminal continues to have the largest share of the U.S. market, (38.8%) followed by Elba Island, according to Pan EurAsian. Sabine Pass is third with 13% of total imports, although almost all of Sabine Pass imports are re-exported, Pan EurAsian said.

Overall landed prices for LNG were $5.11/MMBtu in December, compared to $3.94/MMBtu in November (before adjustments), Pan EurAsian said. However, the overall average prices for December are not representative of prices being paid for LNG imported for use in the United States, it said. Removing cargoes identified as being imported for re-export the weighted-average cost of LNG imported to the United States in December was $3.66/MMBtu. None of the cargoes imported last November were thought to be brought in for re-export, the firm said.

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