London — Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said Thursday there was no evidence of a global LNG supply "glut", dismissing concerns that the LNG market was headed for a period of oversupply.
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Shell stood out early last year as one of the only LNG market participants to assert that there was a balanced supply/demand picture in global LNG, with many others saying the market was already oversupplied with worse to come as new supply projects come online.
However, LNG prices rose to three-year highs in the winter on strong buying from Asia, and China in particular, with the Platts JKM Asian spot price surging past $11/MMBtu.
"The LNG glut -- conspicuously absent isn't it?" van Beurden told reporters at a press conference in London following the company's Q4 earnings release.
"There is not going to be a glut, the market can absorb new supply," van Beurden said.
"The glut has not played out just as we said would be the case. In fact we see a rather tight LNG market," he said, pointing to strong Chinese gas and LNG demand.
Van Beurden said it was understandable why commentators may have forecast a glut because "supply additions are more visible than demand growth."
He also pointed to the fact that LNG was not ending up in the liquid markets of northwest Europe, which is often seen as the market of last resort when cargoes cannot find other homes.
"That market of last resort has not been used," he said.
Shell's view was echoed by industry players during the European Gas Conference this week in Vienna.
Amos Hochstein, marketing senior vice president at US LNG developer Tellurian Inc, said Wednesday he did not believe the global LNG market was oversupplied.
"I don't believe we're in a glut market right now," Hochstein said. "We need all the LNG we can get."
He went as far as to say he saw the market being "short gas" in the next few years.
He said he did not see a lot of competition between global gas and LNG suppliers as a result.
"We're looking at demand rising year after year, and with those demand numbers and a lack of FIDs on the LNG supply side, there's going to be a mis-match post-2020," he said.
Patrick Dugas, the head of LNG trading at French major Total, said all new supplies were being absorbed by the market.
"This famous glut just didn't materialize," Dugas said, adding that the market may reach the early 2020s without ever entering oversupply.
"Possibly we will see the recovery of market without any glut," he said.
Dugas said there always seemed to be a reason why the market was able to absorb supply.
In 2016 it was unexpectedly strong demand growth from new entrants such as Jordan and Pakistan, while in 2017 it was the regulatory shift in China toward gas away from coal because of air quality issues.
"In 2018 we will see what's happening with 40 million mt coming into the market," he said, adding that last year the LNG supply addition of 30 million mt "disappeared, welcomed by the market."
Akira Miyamoto, executive researcher at Japan's Osaka Gas, also said the LNG market was tight.
"Spot prices have moved higher than contracted gas prices so we can assume the supply-demand balance has tightened in the past three months," Miyamoto said in Vienna.