The United States has rapidly become the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), tied with Qatar.
A significant reason for this meteoric increase is because Europe replaced Asia as the top market for US LNG in 2022, as Brussels pledged to boycott Russian energy over the proxy war in Ukraine.
Among the principal importers of US LNG are France, Spain, Britain, the Netherlands, and Italy.
Europe is now paying significantly more for expensive US LNG than it had previously for Russian pipeline gas.
As of 2022, Europe had the highest energy prices on the planet. This was a key factor in fueling an inflation crisis that spread worldwide, and hit Europe especially hard.
Bloomberg reported that the “US tied Qatar as the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas” in 2022, calling it “a milestone for the meteoric rise of America as a major supplier of the fuel.”
The outlet added that the United States, “which only began exporting LNG from the lower-48 states in 2016 and has seemingly overnight become a dominant force in the industry.”
A graph from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) illustrates the monumental shift in US LNG exports in just six years.
S&P Global reported in September 2022 that European imports of LNG made up the “lion’s share” of US exports in the first six months of 2022.
Global imports of US LNG nearly doubled from $10.8 billion in the first half of 2021 to $21.2 billion in same period in 2022.
“Many U.S. LNG export cargoes departed for Europe in the first half of 2022 as the war in Ukraine prompted a scramble for LNG supplies,” S&P Global wrote, adding that “LNG market experts have warned that shipments of LNG cannot quickly replace curtailed pipeline imports from Russia and that the region’s need for significant LNG volumes will remain strong.”
The market intelligence unit stressed that Europe has the highest gas prices on Earth. Its benchmark energy price hit a historic high of roughly €320 per megawatt hour in August.
S&P Global followed up with another report in November, stating that the “European energy crisis has put US natural gas in high demand and in a position of acute geopolitical relevance.”
The financial information firm used the same language, that the “lion’s share headed to Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February” and the escalation of the NATO-Russia proxy war.
The industry monitor LNGPrime reported that France, Spain, the Netherlands, Japan, and Italy bought nearly half (46.4%) of total US LNG exports in May 2022.
Reuters noted in December 2022 that US LNG prices had approximately doubled in the previous year. It added that US LNG exports to Europe increased by a staggering 137% in the first 11 months of 2022, compared to 2021.
The news wire added that “the United States will remain the primary supplier of LNG to Europe for at least 2023. This will likely generate even greater revenue for U.S exporters after a record 2022, which totaled $35 billion through September, compared to $8.3 billion over the same period in 2021.”
This massive spike in energy prices is causing economic chaos in Europe. Politico published an article in November 2022 titled “Why cheap US gas costs a fortune in Europe.”
It pointed out that US LNG is almost four times more expensive in Europe. And it is not just North American corporations that are profiting from this substantial markup, but also European importers and resellers.
Even France’s right-wing President Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker, complained to French industrial executes, “In today’s geopolitical context, among countries that support Ukraine there are two categories being created in the gas market: those who are paying dearly and those who are selling at very high prices… The United States is a producer of cheap gas that they are selling us at a high price… I don’t think that’s friendly.”
Politico added, “Macron’s dig conveniently ignored that the largest European holder of long-term U.S. gas contracts is none other than France’s own TotalEnergies.”
In 2018, the CEO of Austrian fossil fuel company OMV estimated that Russian pipeline gas was 50% cheaper than US LNG. The corporate executive, Rainer Seele, said, “I think it is about 50% difference between LNG and Russian gas.”