In 2019, the US became the world’s third-largest LNG exporter, averaging 4.2 Bcf/d in the first five months of the year, surpassing Malaysia’s LNG exports of 3.6 Bcf/d during the same period. The US is also expected to remain the third-largest LNG exporter in the world, behind Australia and Qatar, in 2019-20, EIA informs.

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US LNG exports have increased as four new liquefaction units with a combined capacity of 2.4 Bcf/d - Sabine Pass Train 5, Corpus Christi Trains 1 and 2, and Cameron Train 1 - started operations since November 2018. Despite the fact that Asian countries have continued to account for a large share of US LNG exports, shipments to Europe have increased significantly since October 2018 and accounted for about 40% of US LNG exports in the first five months of 2019. LNG exports to Europe also exceeded exports to Asia for the first time in January 2019.

Europe’s total LNG imports in the winter of 2018-19 averaged 10.2 Bcf/d, 60% higher than in the previous two winters and the highest winter average since at least 2013, according to CEDIGAZ LNG data. LNG imports to Europe have been relatively low in recent years, but they will grow as new LNG supply comes online and European countries continue to increase natural gas consumption under their decarbonization initiatives.

LNG from the US accounted for 7% of China’s total LNG imports in the first six months of 2018. In September 2018, China imposed a 10% tariff on LNG imports from the US, and in the months since then, US LNG has accounted for 1% of China’s LNG imports. As no long-term contracts between suppliers of US LNG and Chinese buyers exist, LNG from the US is supplied to China on a spot basis.

EIA also expects US LNG exports to continue their rise in 2019 as the first trains at the two new liquefaction facilities - Freeport LNG in Texas and Elba Island LNG in Georgia - come online in the next few months. In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, EIA expects US LNG exports to average 4.8 Bcf/d in 2019 and 6.9 Bcf/d in 2020 as new liquefaction trains at Cameron, Freeport, and Elba Island are commissioned in the next 18 months.

By 2021, six US liquefaction projects are expected to be fully operational. Another two new US liquefaction projects - Golden Pass in Texas and Calcasieu Pass in Louisiana - that began construction this year are expected to come online by 2025. By that time, EIA forecasts that the US will have the world's largest LNG export capacity, above both Qatar and Australia.