The Aussies edged out the Americans to keep their crown as the world’s largest exporter of LNG in 2022, according to the International Gas Union (IGU).
Australia exported 80.9 million tonnes (MMmt) in 2022, up from the 79 MMmt the country exported in 2021. Similarly, the U.S. exported 80.5 MMmt in 2022 compared to the 70 MMmt the country exported in 2021—overtaking Qatar, which exported 80.1 MMmt in 2022 and exceeded its 77.1 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of nameplate capacity, the IGU said in its ‘2023 World LNG Report’ published last week.
The top three exporters—Australia, the U.S. and Qatar—were collectively responsible for 60% of global LNG output in 2022.
Russia, despite its invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, retained its position as the fourth-largest LNG exporter, transporting 33 MMmt in 2022, followed by Malaysia in the fifth spot with 27.3 MMmt in 2022.
“Global LNG trade grew by 6.8% between 2021 and 2022 to about 401.5 [MMmt],” the IGU said.
The U.S. was the main country contributing to the rise in LNG exports in 2022. U.S. exports rose by 10.5 MMmt, or 15%, following the start of the Sabine Pass Train 6 and Calcasieu Pass projects.
Africa’s Mozambique joined the LNG exporters’ club in 2022, sending out its first cargo from Coral South FLNG in November.
Energy market volatility, spanning from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, forced world leaders to rethink and prioritize energy security—delaying decarbonization goals in some cases. The heightened uncertainty has benefited LNG exporters and boosted interest in building liquefaction and regasification facilities worldwide.
Asia Pacific region leads in LNG exports and imports
Asia Pacific was both the largest LNG exporting and importing region in 2022. The region exported 136.6 MMmt in 2022 compared to 131.4 MMmt in 2021 while its net imports reached 160.9 MMmt in 2022 compared to 156.3 MMmt in 2021.
The second largest LNG importing region was Europe, followed by Asia.
Europe was the primary reason behind the increase in LNG imports in 2022. The region saw the largest annual increase in imports, up 66% compared to 2021 at a total of 50.4 MMmt.
Europe imported 126.6 MMmt in 2022 compared to 76.2 MMmt in 2021 to compensate for the loss of piped-gas imports from Russia. Asia imported 95 MMmt in 2022 compared to 117 MMmt in 2021 due to to China’s strict COVID-19-related lockdowns and high international gas prices due to Europe’s increased LNG demand.
Japan ranked as Asia’s and the world’s largest LNG importer, taking in 73.6 MMmt in 2022 compared to 74.9 MMmt in 2021, while China was second with 63.7 MMmt and South Korea was third with 47.1 MMmt.
Through April 2023, global LNG trade connected 20 exporting markets with 48 importing markets, including first-time LNG importer Germany and, more recently, the Philippines, which unloaded its maiden cargo at the Philippines LNG import terminal in Batangas Bay in late April, the IGU said.
U.S. leads global liquefaction ranking
Global liquefaction capacity reached 478.4 mtpa in 2022 across 22 markets, according to the IGU report. Approximately 19.8 mtpa of new liquefaction capacity was brought on line in 2022, of which 75% came from the U.S. The average global utilization rate was 89% in 2022 compared to 80.4% in 2021.
“Liquefaction operators and investors are fast-tracking liquefaction capacity expansion plans and project FIDs and optimizing existing floating units,” the IGU said. “This follows more incentives to maximize the utilization of liquefaction facilities due to soaring European LNG demand following a sharp decline in Russian pipeline gas supplies, the rise of market prices and many outages at some key liquefaction facilities.”
There is 997.1 mtpa of aspirational liquefaction capacity in the pre-FID stage, of which 611.4 mtpa is in North America: U.S. (333 mtpa), Canada (229.6 mtpa) and Mexico (48.8 mtpa); followed by Africa (101.9 mtpa); Russia (137 mtpa); Asia Pacific (68.9 mtpa); and the Middle East (71.5 mtpa). There is around 6.4 mtpa in liquefaction capacity proposed for the rest of the world, according to IGU.
“Global liquefaction capacity would increase three-fold if all these projects materialize,” the IGU said. “However, a fair portion of pre-FID projects are unlikely to progress due to the weak economic or political landscape in some proposed areas, combined with difficulties to access financing for fossil fuel projects.”
Regasification capacity outpaces liquefaction capacity
Global regasification capacity reached 970.6 mtpa through the end of April 2023. However, utilization rates averaged a mere 41%, flat compared to a year ago.
Four regasification projects were commissioned in 2022 as Europe eyed more LNG imports: Germany (1 project), the Netherlands (2 projects) and Finland (1 project). To date, four European terminals have come online while three additional terminals and one expansion commenced construction with the aim of achieving commission in the second half of 2023.
Europe has tended to prefer floating terminals—given their ability for redeployment and speed to market compared to onshore terminals—while Asia and Asia Pacific have tended to prefer onshore terminals.
As of the end of April 2023, there are 44 floating and offshore terminals around the world with a total import capacity of 177.2 mtpa, representing nearly 18% of global regasification capacity. Approximately 16 floating and offshore terminals are under construction, which could add 58.3 mtpa in regasification capacity. Also, five new markets—Vietnam, Estonia, Senegal, Ghana and Nicaragua—will likely emerge this year if floating terminal projects move forward as planned.
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