U.S. LNG developers are on track to approve three export projects capable of processing 5.1 Bcf/d of gas in the first half of the year, a record volume for new LNG projects in any year.

The U.S. became the world's largest LNG producer by installed capacity in 2022 driven by the boom in LNG plant construction and a decade of surging shale gas discoveries. U.S. LNG exports are poised to reach 12.1 Bcf/d this year and 12.7 Bcf/d next year.

The latest approvals are chipping away at a backlog of projects pursuing financial support and customers willing to sign long-term contracts. Analysts say demand for the fuel will keep the flow of approvals coming this year.

"We expect global LNG demand to grow from 399 million tonnes in 2022 to 627 million tonnes by 2035, more than a 50% increase," said Michael Stoppard, global gas strategy lead at data provider S&P Global Commodity Insights.

U.S. LNG developers this year have already approved the construction of two projects: the second 1.2 Bcf/d of Venture Global LNG's Plaquemines in Louisiana and Sempra Energy's 1.8-Bcf/d Port Arthur in Texas.

NextDecade Corp. said it expects to greenlight the first 2.1 Bcf/d phase of its Rio Grande LNG project in Brownsville, Texas, by month's end. First production could take place in 2027, it said.

Most volumes

The final investment decisions (FID) allow the companies to start major construction after signing construction and financing agreements. New plants generally take from three to five years to produce their first LNG.

The combined 5.1 Bcf/d of gas is the most U.S. approved volumes in one year since 2014, when three projects capable of processing 4.9 Bcf/d won financial go-aheads. The seven U.S. export plants now operating can turn about 13.8 Bcf/d of gas into LNG.

Several other LNG export projects hope to land enough customers to secure go-aheads this year - some have been in development for years.

Analysts have said two of the front-runners are the first 0.4 Bcf/d phase of Delfin Midstream's offshore Louisiana project and the first 1.3 Bcf/d phase of Venture Global's Calcasieu Pass 2 (CP2) project in Louisiana.

There are four U.S. LNG plants under construction: the QatarEnergy and Exxon Mobil Corp. 2.4 Bcf/d Golden Pass joint venture in Texas, Venture Global's 2.9 Bcf/d Plaquemines, Cheniere Energy Inc.'s 1.5 Bcf/d Corpus Christi LNG expansion and Sempra's Port Arthur.

As those four enter service from 2024-2028, U.S. LNG export capacity will rise to 15.3 Bcf/d next year to 22.3 Bcf/d in 2028.

Current LNG capacity is 10.1 Bcf/d in Qatar and 11.5 Bcf/d in Australia. That is on track to rise to about 14.3 Bcf/d in Qatar with the North Field expansion around 2025 and about 12.2 bcfd in Australia with the Pluto expansion around 2026.