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Australia tips oversupply in global LNG market through to 2023

The global LNG market is likely to be marked by a surplus of supply over the next couple of years, which will place downward pressure on prices, Australia's Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources said in its Resources and Energy Quarterly released June 28.

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"Given the large scale expansion of global LNG capacity in recent years, import demand is expected to remain short of export capacity throughout the outlook period," the report said.

Global LNG trade is expected to mount a modest recovery in 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on demand and slashed the rate of growth last year. This year is expected to be 363.7 million mt -- a 2.5% increase from 2020. Last year, world trade increased by just 1.5%. In 2019, trade surged 9.7% year on year, the report said.

Along with the easing of the economic impact of the pandemic, the cold northern hemisphere winter and its impact on storage levels was credited with the increase in trade in the first half of this year.

This year is expected to see a recovery in the Asian LNG spot price to $10.80/MMBtu, up from $4.50/MMBtu in 2020. But it's then forecast to ease to $9.20/MMBtu in 2022 and $8.20/MMbtu in 2023, according to the report.

"Beyond 2023, the global LNG market may tighten, due to the April 2021 decision to indefinitely suspend the Mozambique LNG project, in response to rising security issues," the Canberra-based unit said. It noted that the project has a nameplate capacity of 13 million mt, and was previously scheduled to start exporting in 2024.

Australia's own LNG export volumes are expected to be relatively stable in the coming years, while there remains uncertainty -- given market conditions -- around the next wave of investment. Of the five LNG import projects on the table for Australia, it is likely that one or two will proceed, the report said.

"Most LNG projects in the investment pipeline are backfill projects required to support ongoing operation of existing LNG facilities. The proposed Scarborough to Pluto LNG expansion -- where a 5 million mt/year train would be added to Pluto -- is the only substantial expansion to Australia's LNG capacity in the investment pipeline," the department said.

Australia's LNG exports are forecast to drop 0.7% year on year in fiscal 2020-2021 (July-June) to 78.7 million mt. They are then tipped to rise to 82.9 million mt and 83.1 million mt in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, respectively.