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Australia's LNG exports from Gladstone hit eight-month high in Sep

Singapore — Combined LNG exports from the three LNG terminals on Australia's east coast hit a fresh eight-month high in September, while volumes to the world's second-largest importer of the fuel, China, fell to a four-month low, data from Gladstone Ports Corporation showed Monday.

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A total of 1.77 million mt of LNG was shipped from the Port of Gladstone on the country's east coast in September, which is up 5% year on year and marginally above the 1.76 million mt seen in August, the data showed. Gladstone, which is in the Australian state of Queensland, is home to the Origin Energy-ConocoPhillips Australia Pacific LNG, the Santos-led Gladstone LNG and Shell's Queensland Curtis LNG. Each facility has two trains, with the first of the lot having come online in January 2015 and the last in October 2016. They have a combined nameplate capacity of 25.3 million mt/year.

The September export volume translates to an annualized rate of 21.48 million mt, and for January-September the terminals have been running at a rate of 20.23 million mt/year.

The eight-month high in September came even with the two-train 9 million mt/year nameplate capacity APLNG terminal conducting scheduled maintenance, causing a half-train outage over September 11-17, which followed outages with the same impact over July 17-22 and August 21-26, according to a notice given to the Australian Energy Market Operator.

While total LNG exports from the port were up, volumes to China slid to 1.04 million mt in September -- the weakest monthly total since May's 1.08 million mt. The figure is down 8% year on year and 17% lower than the seven-month high of 1.26 million mt set in August, the GPC data showed.

China had last year edged past South Korea to become the second-largest LNG buyer in the world, with imports reaching over 36 million mt, and is expected to be the largest contributor to growth in LNG demand, Australia's chief economist said in the Resources and Energy Quarterly report last week.

"Gas consumption rose strongly, with China putting in place policies to address air pollution by encouraging gas use in place of coal. Strong growth continued into 2018, with LNG imports up 53% year on year in the first six months of 2018," it said.

By 2020, China's LNG imports are forecast to reach 53 million mt, it said. China accounted for 13% of the world's LNG imports in 2017, falling behind Japan with 29% and ahead of South Korea with 12%.

JAPAN AND MALAYSIA

Exports to Japan from Gladstone surged to a four-month high in September at 127,387 mt, up 110% year on year and 92% stronger than August, GPC data showed. However, the Office of the Chief Economist, which is part of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, said Japan's total LNG imports are projected to fall from 85 million mt in 2017 to 81 million mt in 2020.

"Japan sources almost all its gas using LNG imports, and has been the leading buyer of LNG in the world since the 1970s. Japan's LNG imports declined by 2.4% in the first seven months of 2018, compared with the same period last year," it said.

"The main factor affecting gas demand is the pace at which offline nuclear reactors are recommissioned. To date, the pace of nuclear restarts has been slow, with nuclear energy continuing to face public opposition and legal challenges," it said, adding that there remains significant risks of delays and slippages in nuclear restarts.

Meanwhile, LNG exports from Gladstone to Malaysia also rose sharply in September. There was a total of 125,304 mt shipped from the port bound for Malaysia during the month, which is the most in nine-months, and up 96% year on year and 101% higher from August, GPC data showed.

The only two other countries to be sent LNG from Gladstone in September were South Korea and Singapore. South Korea was sent 336,740 mt, down 21% year on year and down 9% from August.

Singapore was shipped 133,252 mt, which compares to zero both a year and month earlier. It's the fifth month this year that Singapore has been sent LNG from Gladstone.

-- Nathan Richardson, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Geetha Narayanasamy, newsdesk@spglobal.com