This article was published by the US Energy Information Administration on July 31, 2023.
By Victoria Zaretskaya
Natural gas deliveries by pipeline to U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities are called LNG feed gas. LNG feed gas averaged 12.8 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in the first six months of 2023, following the Freeport LNG terminal’s return to service, according to data by S&P Global Commodity Insights. Over this period, LNG feed gas averaged 8 per cent, or 1.0 Bcf/d, more than the 2022 annual average and 4 per cent, or 0.5 Bcf/d, more than the same six-month period in 2022.
Note: LNG=liquefied natural gas. LNG feed gas=natural gas delivered by pipelines to LNG export terminals.
LNG feed gas set a monthly record in April 2023 at 14.0 Bcf/d, supported by high international demand for U.S. LNG exports, particularly in Europe. LNG feed gas declined slightly in May and June and averaged 13.0 Bcf/d and 11.5 Bcf/d, respectively, primarily because of maintenance at several U.S. LNG export facilities, including Sabine Pass and Cameron.
LNG feed gas levels are typically higher than LNG export levels because LNG export terminals consume some of the feed gas to operate on-site liquefaction equipment. All U.S. LNG export facilities, except Freeport LNG, use natural gas turbine-driven refrigerant compressors to convert natural gas from a gaseous to a liquid state, or LNG. Freeport LNG is the only liquefaction facility in the United States that uses electric motors instead of natural gas turbines to drive refrigerant compressors. As a result, most of Freeport LNG’s feed gas is converted into LNG.
We capture the differences in LNG feed gas and LNG export levels under the Pipeline & Distribution Use category in our Natural Gas Monthly. In addition to LNG feed gas used during the liquefaction process at LNG facilities, the Pipeline & Distribution Use category also includes natural gas consumed in pipeline transportation.
We estimate approximately 14 per cent of LNG feed gas is used for liquefaction processes, mostly to operate on-site liquefaction equipment. In our Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), we account for feed gas used in the liquefaction process and natural gas consumed in pipeline transportation in the Natural Gas Pipeline and Distribution Use category in Table 5a.
We forecast U.S. LNG exports to average 12.0 Bcf/d in 2023 and 13.3 Bcf/d in 2024, as two new LNG liquefaction projects are expected to come online—Golden Pass and Plaquemines. Global economic conditions and demand for natural gas in Europe and Asia may affect our forecast. The assumed ongoing replacement of Russia’s natural gas exports by pipeline to Europe with LNG supports higher U.S. LNG exports going forward. Limited growth in global LNG export capacity in the next two years may increase the need for destination-flexible LNG supplies, mainly from the United States.
For more information on our forecast of U.S. LNG exports, refer to our recently released STEO Between the Lines report.