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Today in Energy

September 27, 2022

U.S. LNG imports reached 15-year lows first-half 2022, displaced by natural gas production

U.S. monthly LNG imports and dry natural gas production
Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Note: LNG = liquefied natural gas

In the first six months of 2022, U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports were the lowest in at least 15 years, averaging 0.08 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), compared with the five-year (2017–21) average of 0.2 Bcf/d for the same period. LNG imports usually peak in the winter months (October–March), and most natural gas imported into the United States comes by pipeline from Canada.

LNG imports peaked in April 2007 at 26% of total natural gas imports (3.3 Bcf/d). LNG imports declined rapidly between 2007 and 2021, displaced by U.S. dry natural gas production, which grew by nearly 80% during that period. Last winter, LNG imports averaged 0.1 Bcf/d, which is significantly lower than in the winter of 2006–07, when LNG imports peaked at an average of 1.8 Bcf/d. As a share of U.S. natural gas imports, LNG accounted for less than 1% in 2021, compared with 17% in 2007. In the past five years, LNG imports were the highest in January 2018, averaging 0.5 Bcf/d, or almost 6% of the natural gas imported during that month.

Before 2010, the United States was expanding its LNG import infrastructure. Eight LNG import terminals were built between 2005 and 2011, increasing the number of U.S. terminals to 12. Domestic dry natural gas production began to grow rapidly around the same time, and eventually many of those LNG import terminals were reconfigured into LNG export terminals.

Natural gas production has grown in primarily three production regions—Appalachia, Permian, and Haynesville. Production from the Appalachian Basin, which includes the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in the Northeast, accounted for 31% of total natural gas production in 2021.

Several pipeline projects have been completed since 2016, improving the delivery of natural gas supplies from producing regions to consumption centers across most of the country. Although some projects have been completed, such as the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project, supplies by pipeline into New England can become constrained, unable to reach demand centers when needed. As a result, New England continues to import LNG, particularly during the winter, when demand for natural gas is high.

U.S. LNG imports during select winters
Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Note: LNG = liquefied natural gas

LNG imports can be a key marginal source of supply during times of high demand. On peak demand days, imported LNG can contribute up to 35% of New England’s natural gas supply. Almost all U.S. LNG imports are delivered into the New England market at import terminals in the Boston, Massachusetts, area—Constellation Energy’s Everett LNG Facility in Boston Harbor and Excelerate Energy’s Northeast Gateway in Massachusetts Bay. This past winter, the two terminals received nine LNG cargoes from Trinidad and Tobago, totaling 16.8 Bcf.

U.S. natural gas pipeline infrastructure in New England

Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, New England dashboard
Note: LNG = liquefied natural gas

Principal contributor: Katy Fleury