Global trade in liquefied natural gas grew by 4.5% in 2021
An average of 49.0 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) was traded globally during 2021, an increase of 2.2 Bcf/d (4.5%) from 2020, according to The LNG Industry GIIGNL Annual Report 2022 by the International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL). New LNG export capacity, primarily in the United States, and rising global demand for natural gas drove continued growth in global LNG trade last year.
Data source: International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL), The LNG Industry annual reports (2012–2022)
Global LNG export capacity has increased by 29%, or 14.0 Bcf/d, over the past five years (2017–21). The growth was led primarily by capacity additions of 9.6 Bcf/d in the United States, 2.2 Bcf/d in Australia, and 1.7 Bcf/d in Russia. Last year, LNG exports increased the most from the United States, a 2.9 Bcf/d increase compared with 2020. Australia increased its LNG exports by 0.1 Bcf/d, remaining the world’s largest LNG exporter for the second consecutive year. In North Africa, LNG exports from Egypt increased by 0.7 Bcf/d and from Algeria by 0.2 Bcf/d, the second- and third-largest year-on-year volumetric increases among all LNG-exporting countries.
Among LNG-importing regions in 2021, only Asia and Latin America increased annual imports: Asia by 2.4 Bcf/d and Latin America by 0.6 Bcf/d. In four of the past five years, China increased its imports of LNG more than any other country. In 2021, China’s LNG imports grew by 1.4 Bcf/d, accounting for 57% of the increase in Asia’s LNG imports. Japan’s LNG imports, essentially flat from 2020 to 2021, declined by 11% (1.2 Bcf/d) between 2017 and 2021 as a result of nuclear units coming back online. India reduced LNG imports by 0.3 Bcf/d in 2021 primarily because of record-high LNG spot prices in Asia.
Europe’s LNG imports were 8% (0.9 Bcf/d) lower during 2021 than 2020 because larger volumes of flexible LNG supplies, primarily from the United States, were shipped to Asia and Brazil. Lower LNG imports in Europe contributed to record-low natural gas storage inventories during 2021, even as prices reached record highs. The United Kingdom and Italy reduced LNG imports more than other European countries between 2020 and 2021, by 0.3 Bcf/d each.
In Latin America, Brazil had the most growth in LNG imports between 2020 and 2021. Brazil’s LNG imports increased by 0.6 Bcf/d, averaging 0.9 Bcf/d during 2021, as it experienced its worst drought in more than 90 years. The drought limited hydroelectric power generation and led to increased natural gas-fired electricity generation.