As of July 2022, the United States had the most liquefied natural gas (LNG) export capacity in the world and had exported more LNG than any other country, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.
LNG is natural gas that has been cooled to about minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit so that it is in a liquid state and can be more easily shipped and stored, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. As a liquid, natural gas has about 600 times less volume than when it is in a gaseous state, which means it can be transported farther, to places that are too far away from areas that produce natural gas to be connected to pipelines.
Despite decreasing demand for oil as renewables continue to grow, in September of last year the export of crude oil from the U.S. reached a record high of around four million barrels per day, reported Inside Climate News.
“This is all about industry staking a claim to a future role,” said senior advocate in the Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Josh Axelrod, as Inside Climate News reported. “There’s no growth opportunity for oil in the U.S. market, so securing export destinations and capacity is one of their many tactics to stay active and growing even as climate change gets worse.”
Through September of 2022, more than 15 percent of the natural gas and about 30 percent of the crude oil produced in the U.S. was exported, according to data from the EIA, and these exports are predicted to continue to increase.
Toward the end of last year, construction of the biggest oil export terminal in the U.S.—which is slated to start operations at the end of 2025—was approved by the Biden administration, as well as an additional export terminal for LNG, reported Inside Climate News.
Three additional LNG export terminals are under construction, and many of the export projects are in communities that have a large number of Black and Latino residents who are already dealing with the presence of petrochemical plants, as well as oil and gas terminals.
Due to the energy needed in the natural gas liquefaction process, LNG terminals produce an enormous amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2021, the largest LNG terminal in the U.S.—Sabine Pass, Texas—produced 6.17 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is equal to about 1.5 average coal power plants.
It has been said by gas companies that exporting LNG can lower global greenhouse gas emissions if it means fewer coal power plants being used overseas, Inside Climate News reported.
An NRDC study from 2020 found that using U.S. exports of LNG to supply power to Asia or Europe results in about 30 percent less greenhouse gases than coal over two decades.
U.S. exports of LNG have experienced continued growth due to higher demand worldwide—especially in Europe—increased LNG and natural gas prices globally and greater export capacity for LNG, Daily Energy Insider said.
During the first five months of 2022, about 64 percent of U.S. exports of LNG went to the UK and the EU.
Imports of LNG from European countries have increased in the wake of lower natural gas pipeline imports from Russia since the country’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as to compensate for historically low inventories of natural gas.