Asia spot LNG price-maker now seems to be Australia amid exports and high local demand

Tuesday, 15 September 2020
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LNG News Editor: 

Australia exported a record 79.1 million tonnes of LNG in the 12 months to June 2020, up 5.9 percent from 74.7MT a year earlier while domestic gas consumption grew on both the East and West coast markets in the second quarter in contrast to the experience during Covid-19 across most of the developed world.

Australian domestic gas consumption on the East Coast was 7.7 petajoules higher quarter over quarter in the second three months of the year, according to the monthly report from consultants EnergyQuest.

Power use

“Gas-use-for-power (GPG) was down by 5.9 petajoules in the quarter, though other gas-use (residential, commercial and industrial) increased by 13.6 petajoules with increases in all states except New South Wales,” said the report.

EnergyQuest noted that as one of the world’s major LNG producers Australia is to some extent becoming a price-maker in relation to spot prices.

The Platts Japan-Korea Marker has increased from US$2.15 per million British thermal units at the start of July to US$4.66 per MMBtu on 4 September.

“This coincides with unexpected outages at the Western Australian Gorgon LNG project due to the shut-downs for repairs,” said the report.

The national regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission publishes East Coast netback gas price estimates based on the Platts JKM.

This means that unexpected developments in Western Australia that affect spot prices will directly feed in to East Coast netback estimates and possibly East Coast prices. “To this degree any domestic contracts indexed to LNG spot prices will be hostage to unexpected shutdowns by West Coast projects, as well as projects elsewhere in the world,” EnergyQuest explained.

The overall Australian LNG export market followed the rest of the world on the score that towards the end of the year the industry began to buckle under the weight of a global glut of the fuel.

Production of LNG in the second quarter of 2020 fell to 19.1MT, the lowest since the third quarter of 2018.

In July. Australian projects shipped a total of 5.8MT (85 cargoes), only marginally lower than 5.9MT (85 cargoes) in June, but well below the record level of 7.0MT in December 2019.

“From May onwards, the effects of Covid-19 on Australian LNG (in an already oversupplied LNG market) began to hit home,” said the report.

“Projects began extending maintenance periods to rein in production and experienced cargo deferrals. Of the 85 Australian cargoes shipped during June, 33 cargoes were delayed during the month,” it added.

The immediate impact on LNG price realisations was mixed.

Producers such as Woodside Petroleum, operator of the North West Shelf and Pluto LNG export plants, with a relatively high proportion of spot cargo sales, felt the biggest price impact.

However, the East Coast Australia-Pacific LNG facility and the Santos-run Gladstone LNG saw out the full year to end-June 2020 with little deterioration in realized prices.

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