In January, TC Energy broke several of their own peak delivery records across their 13-pipeline U.S. Natural Gas system spanning 40 states. It was part of an overall surge that made America the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for the second month in a row.
According to data compiled by Bloomberg, U.S. LNG exports hit a record 7.3 million tons in January, passing former export leader Qatar once again. There were 101 U.S. LNG export cargoes in January, while Qatar exported 97 LNG cargoes last month.
The top recipient of U.S. LNG exports was Europe, with Latin America a distant second. That is good news for European allies facing a harsh winter and pressure from a newly-aggressive Russia.
“With the acceleration of the energy transition in Europe, we’ve seen U.S. natural gas emerge as a dominant world player,” said Tina Faraca, TC Energy’s Senior Vice President of Operations, Projects and Technical Operational Services, U.S. Natural Gas.
“This is good news for the U.S., and we see significant opportunity to leverage our existing energy infrastructure to help meet the growing demand for natural gas, both domestically and globally.”
As Russian troops continue to mass on the border of Ukraine, the Biden administration has been working aggressively to help cushion Europe from any blow to their energy supply should sanctions become necessary.
“It’s taking advantage of the great resources that we have available in this country to help out our allies, to help them grow economically, and to help them on the environmental front,” according to David Callahan, president of Marcellus Shale Coalition.
Europe’s need for gas is also impacted by changes in energy policy by Germany. The largest economy in Europe, Germany is in the process of shutting down all 19 of its nuclear reactors by the end of the year. The goal is to fill that supply with renewables, but instead, they’ve been forced to rely on electricity generated by coal and gas. Meanwhile, natural gas prices across Europe have hit an all-time high.
Russia was the largest exporter of natural gas to the European Union in 2019 and 2020, providing more than 40 percent of EU imports. That’s a cause for concern in the Biden administration.
“Right now, the European crisis has a political, diplomatic, military overtone to it,” Callahan said. “With Russia supplying 40 percent of natural gas to the continent, we have to be mindful of supporting our allies and not leave them to a vulnerable position where they could lead to a supply reduction, if not a supply cutoff.”
The Biden administration has been working to identify additional volumes of non-Russian natural gas from various areas of the world, from North Africa and the Middle East to Asia and the United States.
“Correspondingly, we’re in discussions with major natural gas producers around the globe to understand their capacity and willingness to temporarily surge natural gas output and to allocate these volumes to European buyers,” a senior administration official said.
Which is why, advocates for the U.S. energy sector say, being the world’s top LNG producer is good news for American workers and European allies
“Natural gas means tremendous jobs, opportunities, and careers for people, not only in the construction trades, but it offers opportunities with those qualifications from a GED to a Ph.D. in all facets of the industry,” Callahan said. “There are opportunities for more jobs though, and those opportunities lie in developing the infrastructure that’s sorely needed to get this natural gas to market, whether it is to other export facilities, or whether it is to energy-starved areas of our country where people are paying exorbitant prices because of lack of capacity like up in New England, so we need that infrastructure to get this to them.”
And, according to Faraca, there’s no reason the increased production can’t continue.
“Natural gas is an important alternative energy source, diversifying supply to international consumers through LNG and a key part of the energy transition by bringing reliable, affordable, non-emitting or lower-emitting forms of energy to supplement renewables,” Faraca said.
“Over the next decade, we project that natural gas demand will grow by 22 percent, led predominantly by LNG exports, industrial growth, and power generation.