Australian LNG exports poised to hit record this year

Australian LNG exports could hit a new record of 78 million tonnes this year, according to the energy consultancy EnergyQuest.

Total Australian exports for the year to November are running 1.2 Mt ahead of the same period last year, the consultancy said in its monthly report. Australia exported 77.5 million tonnes of LNG during 2019.

Additonaly, November was also a strong month for Australian LNG exports, with 6.9 Mt shipped, the highest since April this year.

This was despite supply disruptions from Chevron’s Gorgon, Australia’s second-largest project, and delays to the start-up of the Shell Prelude FLNG project, EnergyQuest said.

One of the reasons for the strong performance was record production from the east coast LNG projects at Gladstone.

Taken together, the Gladstone projects exceeded nameplate capacity for the first time since exports commenced in January 2015, it said.

The two biggest markets for Australian LNG are Japan and China, which both took 2.6 Mt in November, higher than November 2019 in both cases. The third and fourth biggest markets were Korea and Taiwan.

While export volumes have done well during 2020, prices have been gutted. In March, just eight months ago, total LNG export revenue was $4.4 billion. By September it was down to $1.8 billion, the report said.

The good news is that revenue is starting to recover with higher oil and LNG spot prices. In October export revenue was $2.2 billion and EnergyQuest expects that it may have reached $2.9 billion in November.

Spot LNG prices recovery

Spot LNG prices have staged a remarkable recovery, the agency noted in the report. As of 11 December, the Platts JKM for January was $11.23/MMBtu, a more than 26-month high and higher than oil-linked prices, currently around US$5.36/MMBtu.

As recently as June the JKM was $2.00/MMBtu. Platts attribute the stronger spot price to a tighter shipping market, persistent supply disruptions and expectations of cold weather in China and South Korea.

Some of the supply disruptions driving higher prices are Australian, reflecting not only the repair work at Gorgon but also possible issues at Wheatstone and Ichthys, EnergyQuest said.

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