Gorgon LNG arrives amid Asian concern

TOKYO Gas has received a shipment of LNG from Chevron's Gorgon project amid an expert's warnings to the US government that Asian countries are becoming increasingly worried about their still-heavy oil and gas dependence on the Middle East where instability is rising.
Gorgon LNG arrives amid Asian concern Gorgon LNG arrives amid Asian concern Gorgon LNG arrives amid Asian concern Gorgon LNG arrives amid Asian concern Gorgon LNG arrives amid Asian concern

This is good news not only for the nascent US and Canadian LNG sectors, but also Australia's where brownfields opportunities still promise billions of dollars' worth of potential.

The approximately 70,000t of LNG received at the Tokyo Gas Ohgishima LNG Terminal in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture was enough to meet the annual city gas consumption needs of some 220,000 average households, the Japanese firm said.

The cargo carried by the Energy Confidence was the fourth delivery of LNG from projects in which Tokyo Gas has secured participating rights, following shipments from Darwin LNG, Pluto and Queensland Curtis LNG.

With the latest delivery from Gorgon, Tokyo Gas receives LNG from 12 projects in five countries.

Tokyo Gas signed a contract in 2009 to buy 1.1 million tonnes a year of LNG from Gorgon for 25 years on a free-on-board basis.

The company has a 1% stake in Gorgon.

Regional concerns

While the Gorgon cargo will come as a relief to some investors, a US Asia Pacific expert has warned the US it needs to pay attention to what is really going on behind closed doors in key Asian governments.

The National Bureau of Asian Research Energy Security Program research director Mikkal Herberg told the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs last week that while the slightly slowing Asian growth story was no secret, Japan, South Korea and China were all worried about goings-on in the Middle East, which could wreak further havoc on global markets.

"In Asia energy security is national security," Herberg said.

"Energy security will remain a key strategic worry for the governments in the region, especially China, Japan, South Korea, and India, all key powers in the region."

China imports 60% of its total oil consumption and 30% of its natural gas needs, while Japan and South Korea import virtually all of their oil, natural gas and coal and India imports 75% of its oil and more than 20% of its natural gas.

Just yesterday, Korea's Kogas said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Brazilian state of Ceara to cooperate on developing an LNG import terminal in Brazil.

Last month it signed another MoU last month with the Mexican state of Yucatan to build an LNG import terminal that could cost between $US1 billion and $1.5 billion.

Herberg said Asia was benefiting enormously with the huge growth in US unconventional oil production, the global oil supply abundance, the sharp decline in the cost of imported oil and the knock-on effect on lower LNG prices which in Asia are largely linked to oil prices.

However, he warned that while this had eased regional fears over energy security somewhat for the time being, longer-term market balance and geopolitical risks were growing.

"The governments in Asia remain deeply concerned about heavy dependence on supplies from the Middle East," Herberg said.

"This dependence is rising as low cost production rises in the Persian Gulf while at the same time production is declining from many other parts of the world, including sharp recent declines in US unconventional production."

Herberg said Asia, especially China, would need to play a greater role in supporting political stability in the Middle East and security of the sea lanes from the Persian Gulf to Asia.

"Collaboration between the US and China on security of the Indo-Pacific sea-lanes will be essential to energy security for Asia," he said.

"This is a key strategic challenge for the US and the rest of oil import-dependent Asia."

That may be easier said than done, given China's domineering stance in the South China Sea has been rankling smaller Asian players and has ramifications for Australia, for whom China is the country's biggest bilateral trading partner.

Yesterday Chinese and Russian naval forces started joint eight-day exercises in the South China Sea, just days after US President Barack Obama warned China that it could not ignore a tribunal's warning rejecting its sweeping claims to the South China Sea.

The important point here is that Asia will continue to lead growth across fuels, especially for natural gas which is key to making near-term progress on achieving Asia's goals to reduce severe air pollution and long-term climate goals.

Natural gas is a relatively underutilised fuel in Asia accounting for only about 13% of the region's energy use compared to nearly a quarter on a worldwide average.

It was with this in mind that Herberg said LNG supplies would be critical to Asia's ability to transition as rapidly as possible toward much less carbon intensive natural gas and away from coal during the long transition to renewable energy supplies.

"US LNG exports are a key factor in today's much lower LNG prices, along with growing supplies from Australia and elsewhere," he said.

"US LNG exports are also extremely important to Asia's ability to diversify its LNG imports away from potentially unstable suppliers and to maintain affordable LNG prices. This is especially important to Japan and South Korea, key US allies in the region and the two largest LNG importers in the world."

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