Australia posed to enter golden age of gas

SYDNEY, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Australia is entering the golden age of natural gas and is set to become the world's supermarket for liquefied natural gas.

With more than 15 LNG projects under consideration, Australia's LNG production is expected to triple within 10 years, Graeme Bethune of resource analysis firm EnergyQuest told delegates at the Australian Gas Conference in Sydney.


"In terms of LNG development, Australia is definitely having its moment in the sun as the world's LNG supermarket," Bethune said.

"However this won't last forever, with proposals to export LNG from the United States and Canada gaining momentum," he said, adding that now was the time to lock in projects while conditions were favorable.

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Bethune estimated that, when Australia's current LNG projects are completed and in production, Australia would supply 10 percent of China's gas needs, 20 percent of Japan's and 30 percent of South Korea's.

A year and a half ago, the LNG market was "very slow," Stephane Andre, portfolio manager at Australia's Alphinity Investment Management told The Sydney Morning Herald. Because of concerns about the impact on demand from the global financial crisis, it was a buyer's market at that time.


''But since Fukushima there has been a drastic change, especially with strong demand from Japan," Andre said. "The price is increasing and we see a very tight market for at least the next few years. Australia will benefit very strongly from this.''

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With Japan's nuclear capacity reduced in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the ensuing Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, Japan's LNG demand is projected to be around 10 million to 15 million tons a year.

From April to September of this year, Japan's demand for LNG was about 5 million tons higher than during the same period in 2010, Atsunori Takeuchi, Tokyo Gas's chief representative in Asia Pacific told the conference, Platts reports.

At year-end 2010, Australia's proven natural gas reserves totaled 2.9 trillion cubic meters. That represents just 1.6 percent of the global total. Increasing demand, particularly from Asia, has sparked aggressive infrastructure expansion.

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Australia has about $200 billion LNG plants proposed or under construction, the Herald reports.

Current exports of about 20 million tons could soar to 100 million tons by 2020 and could see Australia overtake Qatar as the world leader in LNG exports.

Last month, Chevron Corp. said construction would begin "immediately" on its $29 billion Wheatstone LNG project in Western Australia, which is slated to produce some 9 million tons of LNG per year.


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