The natural gas market heated up over the past several months, and this development may have drawn more attention to natural gas companies such as Cheniere Energy (LNG -0.73%), a company primarily engaged in the liquefied natural gas business. Since the beginning of the year, the company's stock has jumped by over 28%. Besides these recent natural gas market developments, what could have contributed to the recent rally in shares of Cheniere Energy? And, looking forward, what could keep this company's stock rising?

Closing additional contracts
The company recently closed two LNG sale agreements related to its Corpus Christi project. Under these contracts, Cheniere Energy will sell 2.25 million tonnes of LNG per year. The Corpus Christi terminal is expected to start its operations by 2018-2019. These closed contracts reduce Cheniere Energy's risk because these are long-term contracts (20 years); they will provide a stable stream of revenue for the years to follow. 

Local market developments
Even though Cheniere Energy is first in line to export U.S natural gas, the U.S Department of Energy has recently approved for Jordan Cove Energy  to export 1.2 Bcf per day of LNG to free trade agreement countries for 30 years and 0.8 Bcf per day to non-FTA for 20 years. This company is one of 35, which has a license to export to FTA countries and one of seven to export non-FTA countries. These companies, however, will start to export after Cheniere Energy. Jordan Cove Energy isn't any different and plans to start exporting by 2019. But the rise in local competition could make it harder for Cheniere Energy to secure closing the remaining unassigned LNG related to its Corpus Christi project.

Global market developments
The global LNG market is expected to grow by 8% per annum in the coming years. One of the reasons for this steady growth is the rise in Australia's exports; some analysts even estimate this country could pass Qatar as the world's leading exporter of LNG. The U.S is also likely to become a prominent LNG exporter in the coming years, which could further increase the global LNG market. The steady rise in the LNG market will also improve the odds of Cheniere Energy signing contracts for the rest of its LNG operations in the Corpus Christi project.

In conclusion...
Cheniere Energy is progressing in the right path by closing contracts for its LNG terminals. The higher prices of natural gas are likely to result in higher revenue for the company. Finally, the ongoing expanding global LNG market will raise the demand for Cheniere Energy's LNG operations, which will lead to additional signed contacts for its Corpus Christi project.