Global trade in LNG grew by 2.1% in 2023 as imports in traditional markets fell or stabilised and new Asian buyers increased their volumes.

The Paris-based International Association of LNG Importers, GIIGNL, which has 94 companies as members, has published its annual report for 2024, which gives a snapshot of the industry.

In the foreword, president Jean Abiteboul described the outlook for LNG as “not completely clear”.

He said 2023 brought something of a calm after the storm of 2022, but “potential obstacles still lurk beneath the surface”.

“Market conditions remain volatile and could quickly tighten,” he added.

Abiteboul cited the drought that has affected Panama Canal transits for LNG carriers and the attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, which sharply cut the number of vessels passing through the Suez Canal.

He likened the US decision to halt LNG export project applications to casting a “veil of fog” over the global LNG market.

The market grew by 2.1% in 2023 to reach 401m tonnes, down from 5.6% growth in the previous year.

Of the big Asian buyers, Japan’s imports crashed back by 7m tonnes while China’s rose by 7.2m tonnes. South Korean imports fell while Taiwan’s remained stable.

Emerging buyer Thailand’s imports rose to 11.6m tonnes on the back of increased electricity demand. Volumes to India also rose as gas prices fell.

Europe’s imports largely stabilised after the rush for volumes in 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, although with country-to-country variations.

The US emerged as the largest LNG exporter in 2023, shipping out 84.5m tonnes.

Key figures: GIIGNL annual report 2024
  • Total LNG imports: 401m tonnes
  • Exporting countries: 20
  • Importing markets: 48
  • Liquefaction capacity: 481 mtpa
  • Existing LNG carrier fleet: 772 vessels
  • Regasification capacity: 1,143 mtpa
  • LNG traded spot: 141m tonnes

*all figures as of end-2023

Source: GIIGNL

Global liquefaction capacity reached 481m tonnes per annum in 2023, including 12 mtpa of floating LNG production units. Four final investment decisions were taken on new liquefaction capacity last year, amounting to 38 mtpa of capacity.

Seventeen new receiving terminals started up, adding 68 mtpa of capacity in China, India, Germany, France, Finland, Italy, Turkey and Brazil.

GIIGNL said the LNG shipping fleet consisted of 772 vessels at the end of 2023 with a cargo-carrying capacity of 114m cbm.

This total includes 51 floating storage and regasification units, plus three on order; 53 LNG bunker vessels, with nine under construction; and 26 small-scale LNG carriers of less than 30,000 cbm.

At the end of 2023, 341 LNG vessels were on order, representing 51% of the existing fleet capacity. Eighty-nine units are scheduled for delivery in 2024.

GIIGNL said the average spot charter rate last year for a 160,000-cbm tri-fuel diesel-electric LNG carrier was around $97,100 per day, compared with $131,500 per day in 2022.