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Buoyant long-term demand for LNG

MARKET uncertainty in the global trade in LNG continues despite apparent opportunity in Asia, delegates at last week’s national gas conference heard.

Three quarters of the global annual trade of 100 million tonnes is in greater Asia, and 70 per cent in East Asia, with demand in the region expected to grow to at least 110 million tonnes within eight years.

But Japan’s economic woes and privatisation plans for KOGAS, South Korea’s sole importer of LNG, are damping demand.

Australia LNG president Arthur Dixon told delegates that success in the LNG trade was about price, politics and people – plus persistence.

Mr Dixon also presented a facts and figures overview of the outlook for the industry.

Australia was fourth in the largest LNG supplier list to the Asia Pacific region, he said.

Last year Indonesia supplied 23 million tonnes, Malaysia 15 million, Qatar 12 million and Australia seven million tonnes.

Within the greater Asia region, Japan imported 54 million tonnes last year, but South Korea, which imported 16 million tonnes and Taiwan four million tonnes, are the nations expected to significantly increase their demand in the next 10 years.

South Korea’s annual demand for LNG has been forecast to exceed supply by 800,000 tonnes from 2004.

China, which is negotiating its first imports with the North West Shelf Venture, and India, which is looking at double-figure LNG import projects, are the other two nations expected to boost demand.

Gas accounted for just 25 per cent of primary energy worldwide, Mr Dixon said, and only 20 per cent of all gas production was traded internationally.

But consumption was forecast to double by 2020, to 160 trillion cubic feet, and over 20 years, a 60 per cent increase was expected.

North-west and northern Australian gas reserves are currently estimated at 100 trillion cubic feet, with a possible additional 170 trillion cubic feet in potential discoveries.

Asia and Central America were expected to contribute to half the anticipated consumption increase over the next two decades, led by China and Brazil.

China, which will become a sig-natory to the Kyoto Protocol, is decreasing its dependence on coal as a source of energy.

The nation’s oil consumption is expected to double to a daily 10 million barrels by 2020, to become the second largest consumer after the United States.

Forecasts of the need to import 60 per cent of this demand are also behind the move towards gas and the push for greater domestic petroleum production.

Gas lines from Russia and Central Asia through to China’s eastern coastal regions, the scene of most economic and population growth, are currently impractical, and China is proceeding with at least another two coastal LNG facilities.

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