In December, US LNG exports hit record monthly and annual highs, with analysts claiming this would position the US to overtake Qatar and Australia to become the world’s largest exporter of LNG in 2023.

According to US Government data, the US exported 8.6 million tonnes (mt) of LNG from its terminals in December. The data showed that Qatar was the largest exporter of LNG in 2022, with Australia coming in second.

Alex Munton, director of global gas and LNG research at consultancy Rapidan Energy Group, said: “US record production was driven by two factors: the return of Freeport LNG to full service, which added 6mt and the full-year output of Venture Global LNG’s Calcasieu Pass facility that added 3mt more than in 2022.”

In June 2022, an explosion at the Freeport LNG Plant in Texas led to cessation of production at the facility. By November 2023, it had returned to full output, with LSEG data showing that exports in 2023 rose 14.7% to 88.9mt, compared with 77.5mt in 2022.

Europe was the top destination for US LNG exports in December, with 61% of the total exports, a drop from 68% in November. Analysts at Rystad Energy told Reuters this decline was associated with warmer December temperatures in Europe and higher inventory levels. European gas storage was 97% full at the beginning of December.

LSEG data showed that Asia was the second-largest export market for the US in December, consuming 26.6% of exports, an increase from 18.5% in November. Latin America bought 6% of US exports in December.

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The importance of US LNG exports for energy security has increased in the past two years following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In December, the EU Council and parliament agreed to new rules that will ban Russian energy companies from their pipelines and terminals altogether. Currently, the EU relies on Russia for around 10% of its gas.