Limited benefits from the U.S. deal with Beijing to open Chinese markets to U.S. natural gas would be available for American drillers and natural gas exporters.
Long-term contracts to purchase liquefied natural gas from American suppliers can now be negotiated by Chinese companies after the deal announced by the Commerce Department on Thursday. A person familiar with negotiations told The Wall Street Journal said that Beijing will private and state-controlled companies will be encouraged to invest in import infrastructure and allow them to import U.S. LNG.
“Extensive negotiations” over the past month has been held with Chinese state-owned companies about increasing LNG shipments to China, Cheniere Energy told the media on Friday following which the shares of the company popped 4 percent.
The deal would help to “liberate American energy”, said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
“China is the world’s largest buyer of LNG. Now that market really is going to be open to the American producers,” Ross said in a TV interview.
According to the International Gas Union, Japan is the largest market for LNG, followed by South Korea and then China. But according to energy research firm Wood Mackenzie, China is the world’s fastest-growing market for LNG.
And according Massimo Di-Odoardo, head of global gas and LNG research at Wood Mackenzie, representing $26 billion a year in purchases by 2030 at today’s prices, the deal positions the United States to capture part of that growth.
U.S. LNG’s fortunes in China “will depend on its competitiveness versus other global alternatives and Chinese buyer appetite for exposure to U.S. gas prices”, he however cautioned.
Shipping LNG to China from the U.S. Gulf Coast — where much of the export capacity is planned or being built — would be inefficient and unlikely, noted Alan Bannister, regional director for energy pricing at S&P Global Platts.
“China is much nearer and much cheaper to ship from Australia, for example, or Qatar,” he said. “What I think we’re more likely to see in the real world is that U.S. Gulf Coast LNG will primarily go to Europe.”
IHS Fairplay reported that up 32.6 percent on year, China imported 26.1 million tons of LNG in 2016. 12 million tons or 46 percent of China’s LNG imports in 2016 were from Australia, the shipping news outlet noted. While just around 200,000 tons came from the United States in 2016, Qatar supplied 19 percent.
Until the United States builds more of the expensive facilities where natural gas is cooled into liquid and loaded onto specialized tankers, any uptick in exports to China would have to wait.
Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana is the only one LNG export terminal is operating in the Lower 48 states.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. export capacity would be pushed to 9.2 billion cubic feet after four other facilities under construction in Texas, Louisiana and Maryland come online by 2021.
(Adapted from CNBC)