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Australia trims LNG export volumes forecast as it jostles with Qatar for no. 1

Sydney — Australia's Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has marginally lowered its forecast for the country's LNG export volumes for the next two years as the country jostles with Qatar to be the world's largest exporter of the fuel, it said Monday in its Resources and Energy Quarterly report.

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For the 2018-2019 (July-June) fiscal year, it is now expecting exports of 74.8 million mt, down by 1% from the 75.6 million mt figure given in the March quarter edition of the report. The report also estimates LNG exports for the next two fiscal years to drop by 1% and 2% to 81.3 million mt from 82 million mt, and to 81.2 million mt from 82.6 million mt, respectively.

The fiscal 2018-2019 forecast should be enough to see Australia edge past Qatar on an annual basis to be the world's largest exporter, but the margin will be very narrow, it said, adding that it's not a certainty.

"The tussle for the title of world's largest LNG exporter is further complicated by a lack of clarity around the price level of Qatar's LNG exports," the Canberra-based unit said.

"During the mid-2020s, Australia is expected to be surpassed as the world's largest LNG exporter by both Qatar and the US, as new projects in both countries come online," it said.

The report noted that ConocoPhillips is expecting to shut down the Darwin LNG plant for one-to-two years, starting between 2021 and 2023, when gas from the Bayu-Undan backfill field is exhausted. While falling output had been factored into the outlook for the March quarter edition of the report, production is now expected to decline at a faster rate, it said.

The Department now expects world LNG trade to rise to 348.9 million mt in 2019, up from 318 million mt in 2018, and will increase further to 367.2 million mt in 2020 and then to 380.8 million mt in 2021.

"In 2019 and 2020, the continued expansion in global LNG supply capacity is expected to outpace growth in LNG demand, before capacity growth slows dramatically in 2021. From 2021, the LNG market is expected to begin rebalancing, as demand growth absorbs the available capacity," it said.

Global gas consumption is estimated to be just ahead of the production in the coming years. In 2019, consumption is expected at 3,929.9 billion cubic meters and production at 3,920.3 billion cu m. By 2021, consumption and production are estimated at 4,061.6 billion cu m and 3,032 billion cu m, respectively.

-- Nathan Richardson, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Debiprasad Nayak, newsdesk@spglobal.com