Australia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports are expected to reach almost 60 million tonnes in 2017, up by 63% year-on-year, according to a monthly report by energy analyst, EnergyQuest.
LNG exports will rise as the Australia Pacific LNG project and Gorgon LNG project continue to ramp up and new projects such as Wheatstone and Ichthys come into production.
In 2016, LNG exports rose by 37.7% to 36.8 million tonnes as the plethora of new projects triggered a flood of new shipments to global markets, the report said. Total exports were 10.1Mt above the 26.7Mt shipped in 2015.
Notwithstanding the lower oil price environment present through much of last year, EnergyQuest estimates the total value of Australian LNG exports as $17.9 billion in 2016.
This is an 8.6% dollar increase over the previous year, the report said.
Oil prices, to which LNG prices are linked, are now around 25% higher than the 2016 average, reflecting recent decisions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut production.
If current oil prices are maintained, EnergyQuest estimates that the value of Australian LNG exports will double to around A$36 billion in 2017.
“The growth of LNG exports is a massive benefit to the Australian economy,” EnergyQuest CEO, Graeme Bethune, said in the report.
Australia’s newest LNG hub – the three new plants on Curtis Island of Gladstone – saw Queensland LNG exports nearly triple to 17.5 million tonnes in 2016. West coast exports were down
slightly at 19.3 million tonnes for the period.
Most Australian LNG exports continued to go to established customers with long-term contracts during the year.
Japan remains the largest customer for Australian LNG, taking 48% of 2016 cargoes. China is now the second-biggest customer, taking 30% of cargoes. Korea is an emerging buyer with 53 cargoes and 16 Australian cargoes went to India, the report said.
There has been particularly strong demand for LNG in North Asia during the current winter.
North Asian LNG spot prices are now the highest in two years. The Platts JKM marker was US$9.75/MMBtu early in January, well above LNG contract prices of around $7.00/MMBtu, the report noted.
High spot prices are also attracting US LNG cargoes into North Asia.
“Shipments from the Sabine Pass project on the US Gulf Coast, which were mostly going to South America, are now overwhelmingly heading to North Asia with nine of the twelve December loadings heading there,” Bethune said.
“However this does not appear to be adversely affecting Australian exports, which are also mwell positioned to take advantage of high spot prices,” Bethune added.