September 1, 2011 / 9:11 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-US LNG imports dive 44 pct, hit 8-1/2 year low-DOE

* Imports lowest since Dec 2002

* Shippers prefer sending LNG to Europe and Asia

* Conoco re-exports cargo to Brazil from Freeport

(Adds detail throughout)

NEW YORK, Sept 1 (Reuters) - U.S. imports of liquefied natural gas in July slid 44 percent to the lowest monthly level in more than eight years as ample U.S. gas supply and low prices deterred shipments, according to Department of Energy data on Thursday.

Imports fell to 20.2 bcf, the slowest since December 2002 and down from 36.3 bcf in July 2010.

U.S. imports have been declining throughout 2011 as shippers send gas to higher-paying markets in Europe and Asia. June imports fell 16 percent, May imports fell 12 percent.

Of the nine cargoes delivered in July, three went to the Elba Island terminal in Georgia and three arrived at Everett in Massachusetts.

One spot cargo was delivered to the Freeport terminal in Texas, bought by ConocoPhillips for $9.32 per million British thermal units (mmBtu). Conoco later in the month re-exported the cargo to Brazil for $12.05 per mmBtu, the data showed.

There were no exports from the Kenai export plant in Alaska in July. The terminal’s operators ConocoPhillips (COP.N) and Marathon Oil (MRO.N) have said they plan to shut the plant this year as Asian contracts expire, though there are plans to continue exports into October, they have said. [ID:nN1E7781JR]

Reporting by Edward McAllister; Editing by David Gregorio

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