U.S. LNG exports fall in February on outage and fewer calendar days

(Reuters) - A month-long closure at Freeport LNG plant in Texas and fewer days in the month pushed February U.S. LNG exports 7% lower than in January, preliminary date from financial firm LSEG showed on Friday.

The drop followed record shipments last year that propelled the U.S. to the world's largest exporter, above Qatar and Australia, a rank it is expected to retain this year.

U.S. exports of the superchilled gas fell to 7.73 MMt in February, down from 8.3 MT in January and a record 8.6 MT shipped in December.

The February decline resulted primarily from the outage at one of Freeport LNG's three liquefaction units at its Quintana Island, Texas, plant. The unit has been out of service for more than a month due to problems with an electric motor.

The company said this week it expected the unit to be offline for about two more weeks while it completes repairs, which likely will affect March LNG exports.

Deliveries of U.S. gas to LNG plants last week fell to 13.9 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd), according to financial firm Tudor Pickering & Holt. U.S. plants were running at about 95% of utilization, compared with about 97% at the end of January.

Europe again took the largest share of U.S. exports, followed by Asia and Latin America, the LSEG shipping data showed.

The U.S. last year accounted for nearly half of LNG imports to Europe, which cut its imports of pipeline gas from Russia following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Europe took 4.62 MT, or 60.5% of all the cargoes shipped last month. That was down from 5.5 MT, or 67%, of January exports.

Asia's shares of exports jumped to 1.96 MT, or 25% of cargoes compared with 1.42 MT, or 17%, in January, while Latin America's took 0.49 MT, or 6% in February, from an 8.1% share in the prior month, and was equal to December share, the LSEG data showed.

Exports rose to India, which took five cargoes, and Thailand, which took two cargoes last month, the data showed.

The continued security risk in the Red Sea and the drought in the Panama Canal has resulted in more U.S. cargoes taking the long route to Asia via the Cape of Good Hope, the data showed.

The Latin American cargoes went to Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Jamaica, according to LSEG data.

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