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A liquefied natural gas tanker passes through the Panama Canal’s Agua Clara Locks, carrying LNG loaded from Cheniere's Sabine Pass terminal in Cameron Parish. The facility is contributed to a doubling of exported LNG from the U.S. in the first half of the year.

U.S. exports of natural gas more than doubled in the first half of 2018, driven largely by Louisiana's Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas facility, as the country continued to be a net exporter of LNG.

From January through June, the U.S. exported an average of 0.87 billion cubic feet per day, more than double the average daily net exports during all of 2017, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

January was the only month of the year the U.S. imported more natural gas than it exported, the EIA said, largely because prolonged low temperatures caused record demand for gas domestically. 

The Sabine Pass LNG terminal, an $18 billion project from Cheniere Energy, was responsible for most of the growth in exports. Total LNG export capacity reached 3.6 billion cubic feet per day in March, and Sabine Pass has an export capacity of 2.8 billion cubic feet per day, including its recently-completed fourth unit. 

Cove Point LNG in Maryland, which has a capacity of 0.8 billion cubic feet per day, delivered its first cargo in March, and four more LNG facilities are under construction and plan to enter service by the end of 2019. 

By the end of next year, LNG export capacity in the U.S. will reach 9.6 billion cubic feet per day, the EIA said. 

In 2016, Cheniere made its first shipment of LNG from the Sabine Pass terminal, setting the stage for the U.S. to become a net exporter of natural gas in 2017, the first time that had happened in nearly 60 years. 

Another wave of LNG mega-projects are on the horizon, with several eyeing final investment decisions next year. 

The EIA predicts net natural gas exports are expected to continue to rise through the end of 2018 as additional LNG export comes online and natural gas infrastructure in Mexico is placed into service. Overall, exports are expected to average 2.0 billion cubic feet per day this year and 5.8 billion cubic feet per day in 2019. 

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