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Forget Latin America, Asia is the biggest US LNG buyer

[HOUSTON] Asia's finally becoming a prime destination for US shale gas cargoes.

Nine of the 12 tankers that have left Cheniere Energy Inc's Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana - the only one sending US shale gas overseas - since the beginning of December are headed for Asian countries, shipping data compiled by Bloomberg show.

That's a big shift for the US LNG market, which has been dominated by cargoes to Latin America since exports began in February. Asia's emerging as a bigger buyer as winter's chill stokes demand for the heating and power-plant fuel, fulfilling analysts' predictions that the region would eventually become a major importer of US supply.

Global demand has the US on course to become a net exporter of gas this year, a turnaround from just a decade ago when it was facing shortages.

Market voices on:

Asia is "probably the most economic destination to ship to right now," Het Shah, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in New York, said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Spot LNG prices in northeast Asia have jumped 79 per cent since July, according to Energy Intelligence's World Gas Intelligence report.

More than half of the 42.9 million tons a year of US LNG export capacity over the next three years is contracted by Asian buyers, a July analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance showed.

Cheniere wasn't immediately available for comment.