The market for LNG is getting tighter

As with oil, demand signals indicate oversupply concerns for liquefied natural gas are fading.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  June 7, 2018 at 6:07 AM
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June 7 (UPI) -- Growing demand from China should soak up some of the spare capacity of LNG to the modest relief of emerging suppliers like the United States, analysis finds.

Chinese economic policy makers are focusing on qualitative growth as the pace of growth in gross domestic product cools. Meanwhile, China is shifting to a low-carbon economy and the super-cooled liquefied natural gas could be used as a bridge fuel.

Massimo Di Odoardo, a vice president for LNG and global gas at consultant group Wood Mackenzie, said Chinese needs accounted for a large part of the LNG that was on the market last year, but acknowledged there were concerns about whether it could continue.

An exporter, the U.S. government has pressed China to take up more of its energy supplies as it works to shrink a trade deficit. Chinese parties are behind a planned LNG project in Alaska, though Wood Mackenzie's report found the Asian market has enough supplies closer to home in the Pacific region.

In Europe, meanwhile, its dependency on foreign suppliers continues as its own gas production levels decline. Russia is the main natural gas supplier to Europe and most of that is in the form of piped gas. Here too, the U.S. government sees LNG as a tool for political leverage, though Di Odoardo's report indicates Russian gas exports to Europe are stable.

"As market conditions in Europe tighten and with the oil and coal forward curve remaining high, our analysis suggests Russia will maximize its revenues by accommodating all LNG imports in 2019," he said in a statement emailed to UPI.

U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission found LNG plants in operation or under construction represent about 13 percent of total gas production in the United States.

The CFTC's report found that LNG is gaining a bigger market footprint and its U.S. exports of the super-cooled gas that look to have the most rapid growth rate and the most competitive price. That growth means North America broke a land lock to gain a position in the global market.

An oversupply situation pushed crude oil prices below $30 per barrel in early 2016 and Di Odoardo's report indicates a similar scenario may be unfolding for LNG.

"Europe import dependency continues to increase as indigenous production reduces," Wood Mackenzie's report read. "And, as more LNG will increase competition in Europe, lower gas prices will spur some additional demand through coal-to-gas switching in the power sector."

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