US natural gas exports have plummeted since April as a result of the global economic downturn from the spread of coronavirus and related containment efforts, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday.
The US has been a net natural gas exporter since 2017 when it exported more natural gas than it imported on an annual basis for the first time in nearly 60 years. Since then, its net natural gas exports have more than doubled every year: from 0.3 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2017 to 2 Bcf/d in 2018 and 5.2 Bcf/d in 2019.
The country’s net exports of natural gas in the first half of 2020 averaged 7.3 Bcf/d, or nearly 80% more, equivalent to 3.2 Bcf/d, than during the same period last year.
The EIA said that US LNG exports continued to grow in the first three months of 2020, averaging 7.9 Bcf/d, posting a 98% increase or 3.9 Bcf/d compared with the same period last year.
However, the agency said LNG exports started to decline in April amid the global reduction in natural gas consumption and with the decline in global natural gas and LNG prices.
In June 2020, US LNG exports averaged 3.6 Bcf/d, or less than half of January’s LNG exports, and they continued to decline in July to 3.1 Bcf/d.
According to the September 2020 Short-Term Energy Outlook, the EIA forecasts that net natural gas exports will increase in the coming months primarily because of increasing US LNG exports.
EIA forecasts that LNG exports will return to pre-COVID levels by November 2020 and average more than 9 Bcf/d during the winter of 2020 - 2021.
However, the agency said “LNG exports are expected to remain relatively low in September, in part because of the damage to electric transmission infrastructure near Cameron LNG, which could delay the restart of exports from the terminal for several weeks.”
By Sibel Morrow