U.S. LNG exports rise in May as Freeport LNG returns to production

HOUSTON (Reuters)U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) rebounded in May as Freeport LNG, the country's second-largest exporter of the superchilled gas, returned to full production and as more supplies flowed to Asia, preliminary data from LSEG showed.

The U.S. is the world's largest exporter of LNG and a key supplier to Europe since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but overall exports declined for four consecutive months this year, data from the financial firm showed on Monday.

There have been maintenance activities at some plants, as well as at Freeport LNG due to mechanical problems that led to three of its processing units going offline for almost two months, contributing to a decline through April.

U.S. LNG exports jumped to 7.60 metric MMt in May from 6.19 metric MMt in April and just below the 7.61 metric MMt exported in March, LSEG data showed. Freeport LNG, which can produce 15 metric MMtpy, returned to full production on May 10.

U.S. exporters last month seized on higher spot prices in Asia by sending 3.15 metric MMt, or 41% of total exports, up from 2.02 metric MMt, or 32.6% in April. Most vessels took the long route past South Africa's Cape of Good Hope to reach their destination, the ship tracking data showed.

Spot prices in Asia climbed last month on firm demand as hot weather increased the need for power generation and buyers took advantage of lower LNG prices relative to the same period in 2023.

Europe remained the largest export market in May with 3.18 metric MMt, or just under 42%, down from 3.25 metric MMt, or 52.5% of the total volume in April, and the 4.31 metric MMt, about 57%, in March. The volume was barely ahead of exports to Asia, the data showed.

U.S. LNG exports to Latin America and the Caribbean also expanded. May exports of the superchilled gas to the Americas grew to 940,000 t, or 12% of total sales, up from 850,000 t in April, ship tracking data showed.

Gas flows to the seven big U.S. LNG export plants rose to 12.9 Bft3d in May from 11.9 Bft3d in April with the return of Freeport LNG's 2.1-Bft3d plant in Texas, LSEG data showed.

(Reporting by Curtis Williams in Houston; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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