U.S. Gulf of Mexico brimming with LNG tankers as exports rise

Snow-covered transfer lines are seen at the Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas terminal in Maryland
Snow-covered transfer lines are seen at the Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Lusby, Maryland March 18, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

HOUSTON, March 16 (Reuters) - A near record number of liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers on Wednesday continued to jam the U.S. Gulf of Mexico while loading or waiting to load, according to data from Refinitiv Eikon.

LNG export terminals are running near full capacity with U.S. exports in high demand amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Europe's drive to rebuild shrunken natural gas stocks. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation.”

About 27 ships were on the way or near LNG terminals along the U.S. Gulf Coast on Wednesday, according to the data. The peak number of tankers was reached on Feb. 28, with 28 vessels. That matched Feb. 10 and Nov. 11 records of between 27 and 28 vessels. read more

"We have come off the highs, but are still elevated," said Reid I'Anson, senior commodity analyst at consultancy Kpler. "It is normal to see waves of vessels come and go."

There were eight LNG tankers near the ports of Freeport and Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday, according to the data. Among the vessels waiting to load were the Global Sea Spirit and Flex Aurora, which each arrived more than a week ago, data showed.

The number of ships waiting in the Gulf of Mexico in part reflects declining U.S. LNG shipments to Asia. The shorter distance to Europe means the vessels can cross the Atlantic and return quicker for re-loading, said Edward Watson, an LNG shipbroker at Clarksons Plc.

LNG export volumes from U.S. Gulf Coast processing plants are expected to reach about 6.47 million tonnes this month, surpassing a record 6.3 million tonnes in January, Kpler said.

Europe, which has been the top destination since December, is expected to remain the largest importer of U.S. LNG in March, according to Refinitiv and Kpler data.

Reporting by Marcy de Luna; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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