When Shell purchased BG for US$53 billion in 2016 to become the world ’s largest LNG company, it capped off a change in the way the LNG world worked. LNG used to be more of a producer-buyer relationship, with firms like Petronas, Pertamina and Qatargas cutting deals directly with buyers in Japan and South Korea. With a tidal wave of LNG swamping the industry, the opportunity of increased trading arose as LNG trading hubs like Singapore developed. With access to BG ’s vast LNG portfolio and its own, Shell was in prime position to take advantage of a nimbler, more flexible LNG environment.
With the purchase of French power utility Engie’s LNG assets for US$1.5 billion, Total now leaps to second place among the world’s (publicly-traded) LNG sellers. While a small drop compared to the BG purchase, it caps off a string of LNG investments for Total which include the South Pars in Iran and its stake in rising LNG star Papua New Guinea. From Engie, Total will receive interest in the Cameron LNG project in the US, a 5% stake in the Idku LNG project in Egypt, a 10-strong LNG tanker fleet and access to 14 mtpa of regasification capacities in Europe, with Engie keeping its downstream gas activities. It will expand its portfolio of LNG sales-and-purchase agreements, with new output coming from Algeria, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Qatar and the US. This puts on course for Total to achieve LNG volumes of 40 million tons per year by 2020, from 23 million tons today, making it a more well-rounded and competitive LNG player with access to some 10% of the global market. Total will also become Engie’s priority gas supplier for 10 years, ensuring captive demand for an extended period, given how closely French companies work with each other.
With this deal, Total leapfrogs over Chevron and ExxonMobil in the LNG space, who also have their own ambitious LNG growth plans. It seems that while the supermajors are reducing their focus on integratedness in the oil space, they are replacing it with a full-chain focus on LNG. This makes sense given the capital intensive nature of LNG, where controlling assets from gas fields to pipelines, liquefaction to regasification down to sales contracts, makes for a more powerful position to bargain, trade and secure financing. It also helps keep upstart trading companies at bay. Players like Glencore and Trafigura have been moving in on the LNG space recently, with Trafigura building LNG import terminals in Pakistan and Gunvor sealing a deal to buy the entirety of an Euqatorial Guinea LNG project. These are bits and pieces of a (profitable) puzzle, but supermajors like Shell and now Total have access to the whole board.
Total’s investment also comes with canny timing. While Shell undoubtedly overpaid for BG – the LNG industry was riding high at the time – Total’s acquisition of Engie’s assets come at a time when LNG prices are depressed. While Shell had to go on a selling spree to pay for its costly purchase of BG, Total has paid a relative bargain at US$1.5 billion. “We are seizing the opportunity to grow at a time when prices are low,” said Philippe Sauquet, head of Total’s gas, renewables and power business. When LNG prices start to rise again, which looks like post-2020 once the current glut is cleared, Total will be in a great position to capitalise. More LNG acquisition are likely underway, with Total aiming for the number 1 spot.
Estimated Top LNG Producers 2017/2018
Qatar Petroleum: 15%
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In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that natural gas-fired electricity generation in the United States will increase by 6% in 2019 and by 2% in 2020. EIA also forecasts that generation from wind power will increase by 6% in 2019 and by 14% in 2020. These trends vary widely among the regions of the country; growth in natural gas generation is highest in the mid-Atlantic region and growth in wind generation is highest in Texas. EIA expects coal-fired electricity generation to decline nationwide, falling by 15% in 2019 and by 9% in 2020.
The trends in projected generation reflect changes in the mix of generating capacity. In the mid-Atlantic region, which is mostly in the PJM Interconnection transmission area, the electricity industry has added more than 12 gigawatts (GW) of new natural gas-fired generating capacity since the beginning of 2018, an increase of 17%.
This new natural gas capacity in PJM has replaced some coal-fired generating capacity—6 GW of coal-fired generation capacity has been retired in that region since the beginning of 2018. The Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey was also retired in 2018, and the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania plans to shut down its last remaining reactor this month.
These changes in capacity contribute to EIA’s forecast that natural gas will fuel 39% of electricity generation in the PJM region in 2020, up from a share of 31% in 2018. In contrast, coal is expected to generate 20% of PJM electricity next year, down from 28% in 2018. In 2010, coal fueled 54% of the region’s electricity generation, and natural gas generated 11%.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook
Wind power has been the fastest-growing source of electricity in recent years in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) region that serves most of Texas. Since the beginning of 2018, the industry has added 3 GW of wind generating capacity and plans to add another 7 GW before the end of 2020. These additions would result in an increase of nearly 50% from the 2017 wind capacity level in ERCOT. EIA expects wind to supply 20% of ERCOT total generation in 2019 and 24% in 2020. If realized, wind would match coal’s share of ERCOT's electricity generation this year and exceed it in 2020.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook
Natural gas-fired generation in ERCOT has fluctuated in recent years in response to changes in the cost of the fuel. EIA forecasts the Henry Hub natural gas price will fall by 21% in 2019, which contributes to EIA’s expectation that ERCOT’s natural gas generation share will rise from 45% in 2018 to 47% this year. Although EIA forecasts next year’s natural gas prices to remain relatively flat in 2020, the large increase in renewable generating capacity is expected to reduce the region’s 2020 natural gas generation share to 41%.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 9 September 2019 – Brent: US$61/b; WTI: US$56/b
Headlines of the week
Detailed market research and continuous tracking of market developments—as well as deep, on-the-ground expertise across the globe—informs our outlook on global gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG). We forecast gas demand and then use our infrastructure and contract models to forecast supply-and-demand balances, corresponding gas flows, and pricing implications to 2035.Executive summary
The past year saw the natural-gas market grow at its fastest rate in almost a decade, supported by booming domestic markets in China and the United States and an expanding global gas trade to serve Asian markets. While the pace of growth is set to slow, gas remains the fastest-growing fossil fuel and the only fossil fuel expected to grow beyond 2035.Global gas: Demand expected to grow 0.9 percent per annum to 2035
While we expect coal demand to peak before 2025 and oil demand to peak around 2033, gas demand will continue to grow until 2035, albeit at a slower rate than seen previously. The power-generation and industrial sectors in Asia and North America and the residential and commercial sectors in Southeast Asia, including China, will drive the expected gas-demand growth. Strong growth from these regions will more than offset the demand declines from the mature gas markets of Europe and Northeast Asia.
Gas supply to meet this demand will come mainly from Africa, China, Russia, and the shale-gas-rich United States. China will double its conventional gas production from 2018 to 2035. Gas production in Europe will decline rapidly.LNG: Demand expected to grow 3.6 percent per annum to 2035, with market rebalancing expected in 2027–28
We expect LNG demand to outpace overall gas demand as Asian markets rely on more distant supplies, Europe increases its gas-import dependence, and US producers seek overseas markets for their gas (both pipe and LNG). China will be a major driver of LNG-demand growth, as its domestic supply and pipeline flows will be insufficient to meet rising demand. Similarly, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and South Asia will rely on LNG to meet the growing demand to replace declining domestic supplies. We also expect Europe to increase LNG imports to help offset declining domestic supply.
Demand growth by the middle of next decade should balance the excess LNG capacity in the current market and planned capacity additions. We expect that further capacity growth of around 250 billion cubic meters will be necessary to meet demand to 2035.
With growing shale-gas production in the United States, the country is in a position to join Australia and Qatar as a top global LNG exporter. A number of competing US projects represent the long-run marginal LNG-supply capacity.Key themes uncovered
Over the course of our analysis, we uncovered five key themes to watch for in the global gas market: