Will US LNG replace Oz LNG in soaring Chinese market?

LAST night’s news was full of stories of the end of the US-China trade war’s end and the signing of phase 1 of the deal that will see China spend US$200 billion more over two years compared to 2017 levels with a $52 billion spend on energy. 
Will US LNG replace Oz LNG in soaring Chinese market? Will US LNG replace Oz LNG in soaring Chinese market? Will US LNG replace Oz LNG in soaring Chinese market? Will US LNG replace Oz LNG in soaring Chinese market? Will US LNG replace Oz LNG in soaring Chinese market?

The Corpus Christi LNG export facility

Helen Clark


However despite securing such a huge energy commitment from China and a possible vast new market for the supplies of LNG due to come online over the next two years, Washington hasn't convinced Beijing to remove its 5% tariff on US crude or the 25% tariff on LNG. 
"Let's be clear; $52.4 billion over two years is a lot of energy," Wood Mackenzie vice chair Asia Pacific Gavin Thomson said. 
"For China to massively increase imports of oil and LNG from the US while tariffs remain in place is going to be challenging."  
To put things into perspective, Australia's world beating 77.5 million tonnes of LNG exports last year equated to US$34 billion in export revenue, which is not that far above one year of China's commitment to American energy imports. 
At the end of 2017 the trade-focussed Foreign Policy White Paper released by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade noted the worry about US competition with Australia's LNG sector, and those fears were aired by various analysts on the news last night. 
There could be a less immediate threat to Australia's LNG exports than it seems. 
For one thing US cargoes sold at Henry Hub prices or record low Asian spot prices with an additional 25% tariff won't be hugely competitive meaning there would be little incentive for Chinese companies to cut their imports from Australia to the contracted minimum or pick US spot cargoes over Australian ones. 
Chinese NOCs have interests in all three of the east coast export terminals and interests in the even larger Western Australian LNG export project also. Western Australia alone is the world's second largest LNG exporter and Queensland is number six, according to an EnergyQuest note from last week. 
"China's most significant supplier of LNG was Australia, which shipped 38% of December's supply, followed by Qatar with 19%," an EnergyQuest report said yesterday. Australia was also China's largest supplier in November and overall the three Queensland concerns regularly supply one third of Chinese demand. 
Australia sent a record 100 cargoes globally in December, up from 92 in November while China imported a record 7.2MMt in December, surpassing Japan. 
On the east coast Australia Pacific LNG's 10 cargoes for the month saw nine sent to China, Queensland Curtis sent five of its nine cargoes to China and Gladstone LNG sent two out of eight cargoes to China. 
In the west, Gorgon LNG sent 17 cargoes with 11 to China compared with only five in November, the North West Shelf venture sent 21 cargoes, with five to China compared with seven in November and Wheatstone sent 11 cargoes in December with two to China. 
With most of Australia's LNG going via long term, oil-linked contracts, a good portion of its China trade will be protected until contract renegotiation comes up or the contracts expire, still a long time off for most projects save possibly the North West Shelf. 
Despite slowed demand growth last year the overall look for China's gas imports is rosy. The Office of the Chief Economist's Resources and Energy Quarterly of December said "China's LNG imports are forecast to rise from an estimated 57 million tonnes in 2019 to 72 million tonnes 2021". 
"Beyond the outlook period, China's LNG import capacity could more than double from current levels by the mid-2020s, based on project development plans, and China is likely to overtake Japan as the world's largest importer of LNG."
"Chinese LNG demand could grow to 85MMtpa by 2025, and including equity options, China could be uncontracted by 25MMtpa (compared to 12MMtpa in 2018)," EnergyQuest said. 
"There is no official China policy on spot versus term cargoes, and this tends to be decided at a company level. 
"Demand tends to be highly seasonal, which impacts decision on this ratio. With Qatar reportedly dropping pricing slopes into the 11% range (down from 14%-14.5%) making it more competitive, and willing to provide some seasonality, Qatar volumes may increase into China. 
"It is debatable how much more LNG the NOCs will seek with new independent players in China potentially driving significant growth." 
The longer-term threat could come from China's NOCs and independents signing mid- to long-term offtake agreements with US suppliers, pushing Australia's new wave of LNG to the side. By 2021 the US will have six LNG export facilties in operation and more in planning stages. The REQ expects the US to overtake Australia in terms of export volumes this decade. 
However the same REQ also finds hope in a series of LNG-hungry South and Southeast Asian nations from India and Pakistan to Thailand and Vietnam that are all increasing LNG import and regas facilities and implementing their own coal-to-gas policies.