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Australia Eyes Key Role In Booming Asian LNG Market

Australia has ambitious plans for liquefied natural gas exports to Asia, where demand for the superchilled fuel is expected to soar by more than 500% by 2050, as the region moves from coal to the least polluting fossil fuel.

“A strong LNG demand outlook in our region will allow Australia to capitalize on the growth of global spot markets and meet unexpected demand,” said the country’s resources and water minister, Keith Pitt, as quoted by Bloomberg this week.

Australia is one of the top three LNG exporters globally, along with Qatar and the United States. According to the government, it should now focus primarily on seven Asian markets, including Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam, to boost its presence in the region. The country will also continue to supply key markets in China, Japan, and South Korea.

In 2020, Australia topped Qatar as the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter, shipping some 78 million tons of the commodity abroad—a record high.

According to the Bloomberg report, Australia’s LNG export income hit some $23 billion in the 12 months to last June. Government forecasts anticipate the value of natural gas to continue rising over the next two decades and beyond.

Australia currently has the biggest nameplate LNG production capacity in the world, at a total 88 million metric tons annually. Qatar is breathing down its neck with plans to boost its own LNG capacity from 77 million to 110 million metric tons annually. The United States, meanwhile, has 107 million metric tons annually in total sanctioned LNG capacity, of which 36 million tons are annually under construction, according to Rystad Energy data.

To catch up with its rivals, Australia is investing heavily in even more LNG capacity despite calls from environmentalists to accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels entirely instead of shifting from one fossil fuel—coal—to another.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on February 23 2022 said:
    In 2021 Australia exported 78 million tonnes (mt) of LNG compared with 77.83 mt by Qatar and 71.96 mt by the United States.

    Australia currently has the biggest LNG production capacity in the world amounting to 88 mt compared with 77 mt for Qatar and 74 mt for the United States. However, US capacity is projected to rise to 107 mt by the end of 2022 whilst Qatar’s will rise from the current 77 mt to 110 mt by 2023.

    Yesterday Qatar admitted that it is virtually impossible to replace Russian gas supplies to the European Union (EU). Its energy minister Saad al-Kaabi said Qatar can only divert 10%-15% of its LNG cargo contracts to other destinations including the EU.

    This means that should Russia retaliates against EU sanctions by halting all its gas supplies to Europe, the combined total annual exports of the United States, Qatar and Australia amounting to 228 mt in 2021 could barely replace a total of 161 mt of Russian gas supplies consisting of 200 billion cubic metres per annum (bcm/y) of piped gas and 15-16 mt/y of LNG. Only Russia can satisfy the EU’s gas demand.

    Moreover, Europe has a limited LNG import capacity. This makes ramp-ups of LNG imports quite useless particularly if they are needed to replace Russia’s 40% share of the European gas market.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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