With U.S. domestic natural gas trading at the highest prices seen since 2014, America’s LNG exporters are ramping up gas exports at a record rate, sending cargoes overseas for consumers in Europe and Asia – where prices are far higher.
According to Bloomberg, U.S. LNG exporters set a new loading record on Saturday, when – for the first time ever – every one of the nation’s seven operational terminals had an LNG carrier berthed alongside. Together, these plants took in a record-setting 13.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas on Saturday, roughly equivalent to 10 percent of the daily natural gas demand of the United States in winter.
About two-thirds of the volume is bound for the European market, where pinched supplies and fears of a major conflict in Ukraine have driven up prices to record levels. Europe gets about 40 percent of its gas supply from Russia, and the share rises to 55 percent for consumers in Germany. This dependence gives Russia “tremendous coercive power over Europe’s economies,” according to former national security advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster – and LNG from non-Russian suppliers may help to offset it.
New concerns over domestic pricing
Though U.S. LNG exports to Europe are a boost for America’s allies, some energy analysts note that the pace is contributing to a tightening gas market and rising domestic prices. Last week, a group of 10 senators called for the Department of Energy to limit LNG exports until it has determined the effects on domestic gas supplies.
“Despite the heavy burden rising natural gas prices has placed on American families, the U.S. is exporting record levels of natural gas to other countries, a trend that is only expected to continue,” the senators wrote in a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. “Projections of exponentially increased U.S. exports will cause real harm to American families’ ability to pay their home energy bills.”
The senators called on DOE to study LNG exports’ impact on domestic prices and the public interest, and to come up with a plan to make sure that natural gas is affordable for American households. Until that work is done, they called for the department to consider halting permit approvals for additional U.S. LNG export terminals.