The U.S. is expected to 'dethrone' Qatar, the biggest global LNG exporter, with its 30 planned LNG terminals and with six more under construction.
According to official figures from the International Gas Union and the International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers, Qatar exported 77 million tons of LNG in 2016.
While sales to the Asian region accounted for more than 60 percent of Qatar's total LNG exports, the country's top export destinations were Japan, South Korea, India, the U.K. and China. Qatar exported 14.5 million tons of LNG to Japan, 12.3 million to South Korea, 8.8 million to India, 9.3 million to the U.K. and around 5 million tons to China.
Qatar's total capacity of 77 million tons of LNG is distributed as follows:
The Qatargas-1 terminal has a capacity of 9.5 million tons, Qatargas-2 has 15.6 million, Qatargas-3 has 7.8 million, Qatargas-4 totals 7.8 million tons, Rasgas-1 terminal's capacity amounts to 6.6 million tons, Rasgas-2 has 14.1 million tons and Rasgas-3 totals 15.6 million tons.
The U.S. appears to be the strongest challenger to Qatar's LNG leadership in the near term, with annual LNG exports in 2015 totaling 330 thousand tons.
The U.S. aims to take a more active role in Asia in the mid-term with plans to invest in LNG terminals, with anticipated completion dates between 2018 and 2024.
The country currently has two active terminals set for LNG exports - the Kenai LNG terminal with a capacity of 1.5 million tons, which in 2016 did not export LNG. The second is the Sabine Pass LNG terminal, which is actively exporting LNG. Exports of around 2.9 million tons of LNG were made through the Sabine Pass in 2016. Further plans are afoot to have additional capacity of 13.5 million tons.
Other LNG terminals under construction are Freeport (15.3 million tons), Cameron (12 million tons), Covepoint (5.25 million tons), Elba Island (2.5 million tons) and Corpus Christi (9 million tons).
The total capacity of the U.S.' six under-construction projects is estimated at 57.55 million tons, and when all planned terminals are operational, the total LNG export capacity of the country is expected to exceed 300 million tons.
It is anticipated that the U.S.' targeting of Asian and Latin American markets through its planned projects will displace Qatar from its position as the world's LNG leader.
Currently, Australia is the second largest LNG seller worldwide. The country, which has a total export capacity of 32.8 million tons of LNG, has five terminals under construction and eight planned terminal projects.
The total capacity of the planned investments is 63.8 million tons, and when combined with the current capacity, Australia could surpass Qatar in the mid-term.
Russia, which is the global leading seller of natural gas, sells the most pipelined gas and is also trying to adapt to the dominant LNG trend in energy markets.
The current capacity of Russia's active LNG terminal Sakhalin II amounts to 9.6 million tons. The country makes the most LNG sales to Japan through this terminal. It is also constructing the Yamal LNG terminal with a current capacity of 16.5 million tons, and plans three more LNG terminals, namely Vladivostok (15 million tons), Baltic LNG (10 million tons) and Sakhalin LNG terminal (5 million tons).
The Yamal LNG is expected to be operational by 2018.
While the construction of the China-backed Yamal LNG terminal is ongoing, the combined capacity of the other three projects with Yamal will reach 46.5 million tons in the mid-term.
Russia's Novatek holds a 50.1 percent share in the Yamal LNG project while Total and China's CNPC each hold a 20 percent stake while the Chinese Silk Road Fund has a 9.9 percent share interest.
Due to international sanctions, Iran was unable to realize its previously planned LNG terminal projects, but it now wants to have a share in the LNG market.
Currently, Iran does not have an operational LNG terminal, but previously the country had plans for four LNG terminals. Due to the sanctions, the construction of the Iran LNG terminal was suspended.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh invited the French giant Total to invest in LNG in late April.
In the meantime, Qatar is pursuing business alliance opportunities with Iran in the natural gas field. However, the U.S.' re-targeting of Iran with the U.S. Senate proceeding with a sanctions bill on the country on Wednesday, titled the Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 is destined to create serious obstacles to this collaboration.
Five Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, severed diplomatic ties with Doha on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism in the region.
Mauritania and Senegal followed suit, while Jordan also downgraded its diplomatic relations with Doha.