Trump's China trip is a test for US natural gas exports and his 'America First Energy Plan’

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping leave after an opera performance at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017.

President Donald Trump's entourage on his trip to Asia includes a pair of natural gas executives, a sign that the White House is eager to build on progress earlier this year to ship more of the fuel to China.

Natural gas demand in China is rising and poised to boom in coming years as the world's second-largest economy aims to reduce its reliance on coal-fired power. The Trump administration is making it a priority to assure U.S. companies scoop up a significant share of the business.

In May, the U.S. Commerce Department and Beijing reached an agreement that will allow Chinese firms to strike long-term contracts with American producers of liquefied natural gas.

U.S. capacity to process LNG, or natural gas cooled to liquid form, is set to grow nearly seven-fold by 2019 as five export terminals open. Exporting more of that LNG is a central pillar of Trump's plan to achieve "energy dominance."

The United States will have to compete with Qatar, Malaysia and Australia, which dominate global LNG sales, as well as Russia, which ships gas to China by way of pipeline. But there are signs that there's room for American suppliers in the fastest-growing market for LNG.

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