LNG projects at risk as US output grows, Goldman says

Liquefied natural gas projects in Australia as well as Africa and Canada face delays or even cancellation as global demand growth slows and US output increases, according to Goldman Sachs.

Worldwide demand for LNG will grow 5 per cent on an annual compound basis by 2020, and 4 per cent by 2025, Goldman Sachs analysts including Mark Wiseman in Sydney said in a report emailed on Thursday. The bank previously forecast growth of 6 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively.

Even the US, where Goldman expects final approval for more than 40 million metric tons of new gas production annually over the coming years, will not be spared from the pull-back, Goldman said. Advanced drilling techniques including hydraulic fracturing have made the US the world’s largest producer.

“The window for US LNG is limited,” Goldman said in the report. “Given the substantial contracts that have been signed in the last couple of years with US LNG projects, we believe investors should seek exposure to low-cost LNG export capacity, and be realistic about expectations for further contracts.”

US supplies will compete with cargoes from Qatar and Australia, two of the biggest exporters, shifting global movements of the super-chilled fuel. Surging US gas production from shale formations including the Marcellus deposit in Appalachia has sent prices tumbling 69 per cent from their peak in 2008.

Factors that may slow demand for LNG include the restart of nuclear reactors in Japan, China’s success in shale-gas exploration and production, and economic conditions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

UNCERTAIN PRODUCTION COSTS

Several projects in Canada and Australia will probably face deferrals due to uncertain production costs and price-sensitive buyers, according to Goldman. Papua New Guinea has perhaps the lowest risks as it expands LNG production, the bank said.

“Outside of the US, we believe Papua New Guinea and East Africa may be the best placed regions to compete on cost competitiveness,” Goldman said. “Given the industry’s renewed focus on capital discipline in recent times, we are observing a number of high-cost LNG projects deprioritized in the investment queue by major companies such as Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, BG Group, ExxonMobil.”

The bank expects strong demand growth in Asia to be led by China and ASEAN nations, with modest growth from India, South Korea and Japan.

“More than 20 per cent of Japan’s LNG future import prices are driven by Henry Hub gas prices,” Goldman said, referring to the delivery point for US natural gas futures.

CHINESE POLICY

China’s government policy is driving increased gas use, especially in residential and industrial consumption, as well as transportation, according to the report. Still, gas-fired power generation capacity is not a high priority in China given the lack of competitively priced supply compared with other feedstock, Goldman said.

LNG demand in Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam will continue to grow and reach a combined 42 million tonnes per year by 2025, according to Goldman.

“Traditionally an LNG exporting region from Indonesia Malaysia and Brunei, ASEAN has emerged as a large demand centre due to strong economic growth, urbanization, and declining local gas supplies,” Wiseman said. “In many cases, LNG is reducing fuel costs initially, displacing oil consumption or more expensive pipeline gas.”

via LNG projects at risk as US output grows, Goldman says.