US LNG Exports Slump in September as Plant Outages Pare Output

HOUSTON (Reuters) — U.S. exports of LNG fell modestly in September from August as scattered outages at four gas-processing plants led to lower shipments, LSEG vessel tracking data showed.

A total of 7.12 million metric tons of the superchilled gas left U.S. ports last month, down from the 7.32 million metric tons exported in August, LSEG data showed.

In September, more than half of U.S. LNG exports went to Europe, which received 52% of cargoes, the same share as in August. Asia received 30%, similar to August, the data showed.

Europe has been taking more U.S. gas since Russia's invasion of Ukraine cut pipeline supplies and countries shunned its energy exports.

In September exports increased slightly to Latin America, which took 8% of exports, up from 7% in August, buoyed by higher purchases by Colombia, the preliminary data showed.

In the first six months of this year, the U.S. regained its crown as the world's largest LNG exporter, according to recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, surpassing exporters' Australia and Qatar.

Fewer vessel owners in September opted to use the Panama Canal to reach customers in Asia, instead taking longer routes around South Africa or passing through the Suez Canal, the data showed.

Exports dropped as maintenance outages at Freeport LNG, Cheniere Energy's LNG.A Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi plants, and Berkshire Hathaway Energy's Cove Point export facility cut sales to customers.

Freeport LNG, the second largest U.S. exporter of LNG, last month was offline for almost a week, Cheniere's Corpus Christi operated at reduced capacity for four days, and the largest U.S. LNG facility, Sabine Pass, operated at reduced capacity for one day. Ongoing maintenance at Berkshire Hathaway Energy's Cove Point in Maryland also led to a cut in LNG exports in September, the data showed.

However, gas flows to the seven largest U.S. LNG export plants rose to an average of 12.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in September, up from 12.3 Bcf/d in August. That compares with a monthly record of 14 Bcf/d in April.

U.S. spot prices were tame in September, with the Henry Hub NG-W-HH-SNL benchmark averaging $2.64 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), according to LSEG, compared to $2.58 per MMBtu in August.

Asian prices appeared to be picking up due to tightening supply into Europe and increased demand in Asia, consulting firm Rystad Energy said in its September market update.

China has steadily increased its LNG and coal imports throughout the year, supported by positive industrial production numbers in August which could challenge previously bearish economic outlooks, Rystad noted.

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