LNG demand in a transforming industry: 6 considerations for sellers

Mary Hemmingsen's picture
Mary Hemmingsen, EVP and CFO, Northwest Innovation Works
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*This article was contributed by Mary Hemmingsen when she worked at KPMG as Partner, National Sector Leader, LNG, Power and Utilities. 

The global LNG market is transforming. By 2016, the USA is expected to start LNG exports from the Gulf Coast, a plot twist that was unthinkable even ten years ago. Australia will soon be an exporter on a scale to rival Qatar, while new importers are springing up from Panama and Lithuania to Egypt and Vietnam. LNG importers are becoming exporters and vice versa.

In light of these new dynamics, we have set out six considerations for LNG sellers:

• Understand LNG demand holistically: Compare the attractiveness of different end-user geographies, including large, but mature markets, big markets with potential for growth, and emerging niches. On a global scale, strategic choices by gas exporters to shift from one market to another, for instance Russia’s changing pipeline focus from Europe to China, can open up LNG supply opportunities.

• Segment markets by price-sensitivity and pricing basis: Some markets have gas-on-gas competition, some feature competition against oil-indexed pipeline gas, and in others, LNG competes against coal for bulk demand. Demand and price are further complicated by policies that distort pure economics. To understand demand intelligently, it should be measured against the right LNG price basis and policy mechanisms.

• Create demand: Create demand by accessing niches and new markets and creating new import points by investing in or facilitating regasification terminals and connections. Joint ventures could be considered to create demand, for example, on gas-fired power plants in existing coal-using markets or on LNG shipping. Singapore’s ambitions in LNG bunkering point to a way ahead, that may be linked to China and India for both sea and ground transport.

• Understand buyer's business strategies: Align with marketing and business strategies that will differ between a traditional large LNG project looking to secure anchor customers; a Henry Hub-based tolling project in the USA; a small floating LNG project; and a portfolio player or trader with many sources and destinations. These different business models need to match with the choice of pricing bases and contract durations and the access to physical infrastructure such as tankers and regasification terminals.

• Maintain optionality and competitiveness: LNG is a cyclical business. The market will tighten again and prices will rise, benefiting companies with diverse portfolios that can be developed and traded quickly. Supply needs to be competitive against other LNG and other energy sources. For projects not yet in construction, seek LNG liquefaction cost reduction. During downturns, only the most advantaged projects – large, close to market, and/or geologically favourable, can go ahead. Execution and cost control are essential, as discussed in the recent KPMG papers, including 'Is Canada still considered an LNG supplier of choice?'.

• Determine a strategy for mixed LNG/pipeline exports: Determine a strategy for mixed LNG/pipeline exports, in the case of exporters such as the Eastern Mediterranean countries, Russia and Algeria who have a choice between the two export methods. This involves balancing netback pricing against strategic objectives of buyer diversification and maintaining access to premium markets while opening up new ones.

An LNG market that is globalizing, transforming and becoming more varied presents all participants with challenges. Uncertainty over demand from traditionally dominant buyers requires competitiveness and eyes for new markets from LNG producers and traders. Buyers, conversely, should make the most of their current strong position, while deploying new strategies. The winners along the value-chain will be those who can act counter-cyclically, who can create and maximize markets, instead of reacting passively to them, who can identify the major long-term trends driving LNG demand, while also staying flexible to seize emerging opportunities.

What do you think? Has Mary missed any important considerations off the list? Let us know your thoughts below.

Mary presented at the Gastech conference last year. Interested in speaking at our upcoming Gastech Japan 2017 Conference? Submit Your Abstract, the Call for Papers is Now OpenThe conference topics are split between commercial and technical themes - simply submit a short abstract (800 words maximum) in order for our Governing Body to review and then vote on the successful chosen papers.

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Photo: Courtesy of KPMG