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American LNG diplomacy spread thin

image credit: Cheniere. Montage by Energy Flux
Seb Kennedy's picture
Founding Editor Energy Flux newsletter

I am professional energy journalist, writer and editor who has been chronicling the renewables and fossil fuel energy sectors since 2008.  I am passionate about the energy transition, so much so...

  • Member since 2020
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  • Apr 26, 2022

The energy world is only starting to comprehend the many ways in which war in Ukraine is disrupting markets. Europe’s push to replace Russian pipeline gas with liquefied natural gas (LNG) promises to recast dynamics between major LNG exporters and importers – and geopolitical relations between global superpowers.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, the prevailing geopolitical narrative underpinning LNG trade was one of cooperation between adversaries. The emergence of the US and China as the world’s biggest exporter and importer, respectively, bolstered the diplomatic significance of US LNG exports.

The US was the world’s third-biggest LNG exporter in 2021 at almost 75 million tonnes, shortly behind Qatar and Australia. The commissioning of new liquefaction trains (the equipment to chill natural gas into LNG) at Sabine Pass and Calcasieu Pass in Louisiana this year will push US export capacity beyond those two countries and into the global top spot.

At the other end of the value chain, China increased its LNG imports by 12 million tonnes to 79 million tonnes in 2021, nosing ahead of import-reliant Japan for the first time. This 18% surge in LNG imports coincided with China’s economic rebound: GDP grew at 8.1%, its fastest in ten years and well in excess of Beijing’s 6% target. The Chinese economy is today valued at 114.37 trillion yuan ($17.97 trillion). Only the US economy is larger, at $23 trillion.

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