By Marianna Parraga
HOUSTON, July 1 (Reuters) - U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in June fell to the lowest in four months, data from Refinitiv Eikon showed, after the country's second-largest LNG plant was shut by an explosion.
LNG shipments from the United States to Europe had rocketed before the June 8 blast, which knocked out Freeport LNG. The plant had been exporting about 1.9 billion cubic feet per day. Partial operations could resume in October, the company said.
A total of 90 LNG tankers departed from U.S. ports last month carrying 6.42 million tonnes, 11% below the prior month's 7.24 million tonnes, according to preliminary data, based on vessel flows.
Europe once again was the main destination with 61% of cargoes heading that direction, followed by Asia with 24% of shipments. Exports to Latin America and the Caribbean continued to gain, boosted by Brazil and Argentina, as the Southern Hemisphere's winter increased demand.
At least six tankers that were to load at Freeport LNG in Quintana, Texas, in June were diverted to other U.S. and Caribbean terminals.
On Thursday, a U.S. pipeline regulator said Freeport LNG will not be allowed to repair or restart operations until it addresses risks to public safety.
The outage has exacerbated global LNG shortages amid reduced gas flows from Russia, while weighing heavily on U.S. natural gas prices.
U.S. gas futures jumped about 8% on Friday ahead of the long three-day U.S. July 4 holiday due to a technical bounce and forecasts of hotter weather that will push demand up over the next two weeks.
But the lower LNG exports also are allowing U.S. utilities to boost gas storage ahead of the winter, said Rystad Energy's analyst Lu Ming Pang in a note to clients this week.
Current U.S. storage levels are 12.3% lower than a year ago and 13.2% below the five-year average, according to Rystad's figures.