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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Huge Chinese Demand Fuels The Next U.S. Gas Boom


China’s push for cleaner air and fuel is driving an unprecedented demand for natural gas, and the United States is well-positioned to seize this opportunity and export even more of its growing gas production to the thirsty nation.  

U.S. companies have plans for even more liquefied natural gas (LNG) export trains and facilities to come online in the coming years, and this winter’s surge in Chinese LNG demand and imports underpins a second wave of LNG investment in the United States, analysts and company executives believe.

The Chinese push to cut pollution and make millions of households switch to natural gas from coal for heating resulted in China becoming the world’s second-largest LNG importer in 2017, outpacing South Korea and second only behind Japan, the U.S. EIA said last month. Chinese LNG imports surged 46 percent last year. And while China increased its domestic production and pipeline imports last year, it was not enough; natural gas shortages in northern China led to record levels of LNG imports during the winter. Overall, natural gas imports accounted for 40 percent of China’s 2017 natural gas supply, and LNG made up more than half of those imports. True, China is planning to hit an all-time high for natural gas production this year, which includes raising the share of gas in its energy mix—still, domestic production growth will be woefully insufficient compared to its soaring consumption.  

So, the United States is all too happy to step in to supply part of that demand.

Cheniere Energy is one such supplier, which signed last month two long-term deals—through 2043—to supply LNG to China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), with the LNG price indexed to the Henry Hub price plus a fixed component.

“We expect these agreements to support the development of Corpus Christi Train 3, and we are now focused on completing the remaining necessary steps to reach a final investment decision later this year,” Cheniere’s President and CEO Jack Fusco said. Related: Saudi Arabia Plans Its Own Shale Revolution

Earlier this month, Fusco told CNBC that this is “just the beginning of a long-term relationship” with China, noting that Cheniere already has four operational trains, with another three trains coming online shortly.

Since Cheniere started exporting U.S. LNG in February 2016, Latin America and Asia have been the two leading destinations for American exports, but recently, every “spare drop” was shipped to China, Fusco told the CERAWeek conference in Houston this week.

Between February 2016 and December 2017, China was the third-largest market for U.S. LNG—behind Mexico and South Korea—accounting for 13.5 percent of all U.S. LNG exports, U.S. Department of Energy data shows.

The growing Chinese appetite for natural gas could justify new LNG export facilities investment in the United States where natural gas is cheap and abundant, executives and analysts concur.

“As we saw this winter, demand in Asia and China kind of surprised the market. What we saw was supposed to be a market that might not be hitting supply-demand balance until the mid-2020s,” Kevin Brown, research analyst at Tortoise Capital Advisors, which is a shareholder in Cheniere, told CNBC.

Related: Iran Could Lose 500,000 Bpd If Trump Trashes Deal

“It’s at a place now where we see the balance coming maybe earlier, in the 2020s, pushing people to have to make that second wave of LNG investment,” Brown said.

“We are on the precipice of the first time I’ve seen in my career when we have demand-pull and supply-push happening at the same time to support almost $200 billion in infrastructure investment that’s needed in the U.S.,” Meg Gentle, president and CEO of LNG company Tellurian, told CNBC. Tellurian was co-founded by Charif Souki, who also founded Cheniere and was its CEO and president until December 2015.

Future investment in more U.S. LNG export infrastructure is expected to pay off in the long term because global natural gas demand will only rise, and China will account for 40 percent of that demand growth until 2022, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said. On the other hand, the United States—the world’s largest gas consumer and producer—will account for 40 percent of the world’s extra gas production to 2022 “thanks to the remarkable growth in its domestic shale industry,” the IEA estimates.

While U.S. domestic demand for gas is growing, more than half of the production increase will be used for LNG exports. The United States will be on course to challenge Australia and Qatar for global leadership among LNG exporters by 2022, according to the IEA.

Vying for global leadership in LNG exports, the United States is on course to boost its export capacity and meet a growing share of the booming Chinese gas demand.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh G Salameh on March 11 2018 said:
    The Chinese fast-growing demand for LNG is good news not only for US LNG suppliers but also for other major LNG producers like Qatar, Australia, Malaysia and Russia and above all also the global environment.

    However, it will be great if we are spared the outlandish and misleading claims by the IEA about the United States being on course to challenge Australia and Qatar for global leadership among LNG exporters by 2022.

    The United States could not become the largest LNG exporter by 2022 surpassing global leaders like Qatar and Australia. The reason is that future US LNG exports will face stiff competition from leading exporters of LNG in the world, namely Qatar, Australia and recently Russia.

    With global demand for LNG growing by leaps and bounds, Qatar is planning to boost its LNG production capacity by 30% from 77 million tons (mt) currently to 100 mt per year with the aim of maintaining its position as the world’s largest producer and exporter of LNG. Qatar currently accounts for 32% of global LNG demand and 80% of all LNG exports to the Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, Qatar has the world's cheapest LNG production costs.

    Then there is Australia which is investing heavily in expanding its LNG production and export capacities. By the 2020 Australia will have a production capacity of 85 mt compared with some 50 mt for the United States.

    In 2017 the US exported an estimated 14 mt of LNG and this is projected to rise to 40 by 2020s compared with 70 mt by Qatar and some 60 mt by Australia.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • Heinrich Leopold on March 11 2018 said:
    It looks like the most gas is coming from Russia over pipeline.LNG is far too expensive.
  • Johnny on March 12 2018 said:
    There is nothing better for natural gas and oil price than increased world economy.Once increasing economy start determining demand and price than we can expect new records.Combination of production cut and warmed up economy is best market driver.
  • D R Pearson on March 12 2018 said:
    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh is very correct in stating that the US will not be able to out compete Qatar, and most likely Russia & Australia in LNG exports. US doesn't have the gas reserves to compete with Qatar, Russia, & Australia. US tight gas reserves will be depleting tight gas plays much faster than conventional fields in the other countries. US doesn't have the 100 year supply that has been claimed by our government officials (not according to EIA estimates). Should be interesting. Regards

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