U.S. To See More LNG, Despite Downturn

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"More shipments of LNG will come to the U.S. this year, whether the market needs them or not."

As much as 90 million tonnes/year of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply will flow towards global markets this year and next. With current LNG markets in a balance never before seen in world trade, the additional volumes must move somewhere. That somewhere is the market of last resort: the U.S. That market is already adequately supplied, thanks to the recent surge in shale gas production.

These were some of the major trends announced last week at Platts' 8th Annual LNG conference in Houston.

For some time now, industry analysts have predicted that excess cargoes of LNG will find a home in the U.S., a default location in an increasingly balanced global trade. As prices fall in Asia and Europe, the argument goes, the plethora of storage and the thoroughly liquid market in North America will attract shipments unable to fix destinations in the other two markets.

Waterborne Energy's Steve Johnson told the conference an average about 3 bcfd would arrive this year. Last year saw a sharp decline from the record volumes that arrived in 2007. While predicting growth in LNG shipments in the U.S. for this year and next, Johnson did not explain why this would happen, given that natural gas demand, especially industrial and commercial, has dropped off the table.

David Wells, vice-president for global LNG supply at Shell Gas & Power International BV, said there are three "truths" in the current market.
  1. Long-term demand is rising
  2. Security of supply is threatened by the passing of the "easy plays," resource nationalism and the rise of unconventional resource developments (such as shales in North America and coal bed methane in Australia)
  3. Global environmental concerns have put hydrocarbon developments under pressure.
By 2050, said Wells, energy use must be "twice as efficient" as in 2008. To get there, carbon dioxide regulation "must be efficient and global."

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