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Qatar may re-route energy products to China after virus outbreak

Dubai — Qatar is working with China to re-route or reschedule energy product deliveries to the Asian country, which is grappling with slowing energy demand due to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus, the country's energy minister said Wednesday.

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"All concerned Qatari energy companies are already working closely with their Chinese partners to assist in identifying and assessing potential support areas, and that they are actively engaged in accommodating certain rescheduling or re-routing requests for deliveries of Qatari energy products to China," Saad al-Kaabi said in a statement.

China is one of the biggest LNG customers for Qatar, which is vying with Australia as the world's No. 1 LNG exporter.

China, the world's second largest LNG importer after Japan, said it would offer force majeure certificates to domestic companies if they are unable to fulfill their international contractual obligations due to the coronavirus outbreak. But the protection these certificates offer would depend on the specific contract and circumstances. State-run CNOOC, China's largest LNG importer, declared force majeure last week.

S&P Global Platts Analytics forecasts that if reduced industrial activity across Hubei Province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, extends through the end of February, it would reduce Chinese LNG demand by 5%-7% relative to its base case, driving down imports.

The deadly outbreak has prompted the Platts JKM, the LNG price benchmark for the Northeast Asia region, to fall to an all-time low of $2.763/MMBtu on Monday, down 34% from January 20.

LNG boost

Qatar plans to boost its LNG production capacity to 126 million mt/year by 2027, a 64% increase from the current 77 million mt/year, Kaabi said in November.

Qatar Petroleum had previously said it intended to raise LNG production capacity to 110 million mt/year.

The offshore North Field, where most of Qatar's gas is pumped, has supported the country's position as the world's biggest LNG exporter for years, with shipments averaging around 300 million cu m/day. But a raft of recent LNG projects in Australia means Qatar will likely temporarily lose its crown as the top LNG supplier this year.

Qatar last year supplied 76 million mt of LNG, which made up almost a quarter of the total global LNG supply estimated at 348 million mt.