Biden Administration Approves More LNG Exports to Europe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Biden administration said on Wednesday it had authorized additional exports of LNG from Cheniere Energy in a move that can likely help Europe deal with an energy crunch worsened by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Department of Energy (DOE) approvals allow Cheniere's Sabine Pass, Louisiana and Corpus Christi, Texas, terminals flexibility to export the equivalent of 0.72 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of LNG to any country with which the United States does not have a free trade agreement, including all of Europe.

It expanded the scope of export destinations that were authorized in October by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Commenting on the decision, American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Mike Sommers applauded the DOE's move to approve the new LNG export permits.

“We applaud the Department of Energy for advancing two important U.S. LNG permits at this critical time in history,” Sommers said. “America is the best prepared nation to help Europe and our other allies meet rising energy demand amid international turmoil while furthering our shared goal for a lower carbon future. We will continue working with the department to ensure a timely and efficient permitting process to advance U.S. LNG export projects, which are key to supplying the affordable, reliable, and cleaner energy the world needs now and in the future.”

Before Russia's Feb. 24 Ukraine invasion, the United States talked with LNG exporting countries and companies on contingency plans on keeping the fuel flowing to Europe. Russia usually provides around 30% to 40% of Europe's gas, which totaled about 18 Bcf/d in 2021.

"This authorization will allow for additional operational flexibility for us and our customers during this pivotal time and for decades to come," Cheniere said in an e-mailed statement.

Every operating U.S. LNG export project now has approval to export its full capacity to any country where not prohibited by U.S. law or policy, the Energy Department said.

U.S. lawmakers and energy industry trade groups have called on the Biden administration to ramp up natural gas and oil exports to allies as Europe faces an energy crunch exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

White House efforts to boost U.S. LNG exports were proceeding slowly because of concerns about the impact on climate change of projects that could last decades, government and industry sources said last week. 

The DOE said U.S. LNG is an important component of global energy security, and with an expected rise in exports, it is "particularly focused on driving down methane emissions in the oil and gas sector both domestically and abroad."

The United States is now the top global exporter of LNG and is expected export an additional 20% beyond current levels by the end of this year as more capacity comes online.

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