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Record shipments to China drive Australia's LNG exports to second highest ever in Nov

Sydney — Exports of LNG from Australia's east coast in November were the second highest since shipments began at the beginning of 2015 as volumes to China set an all-time record, data from the Gladstone Ports Corporation showed Thursday.

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A total of 1.92 million mt of the fuel was shipped during the month from the Port of Gladstone - which is home to all three of eastern Australia's LNG export terminals -- showing an increase of 13% year on year from 1.70 million mt and 10% above 1.76 million mt in October. The port set its highest monthly total in December last year with 1.99 million mt, the data showed. The November volumes translates to an annualized rate of 23.40 million mt against the terminals' nameplate capacity of 25.3 million mt/year. For January-November, they have shipped 18.81 million mt - an annualized rate of 20.55 million mt.

Gladstone, which is in the Australian state of Queensland, is home to the Origin-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. Energy consultancy EnergyQuest said Wednesday that capacity utilization has increased throughout the year at the three Queensland projects - rising from 77% in April-June to 83% in July-September.

"QCLNG and APLNG are managing to almost fill their LNG trains, while GLNG's capacity utilization is still only around 60%," EnergyQuest CEO Graeme Bethune said.

Meanwhile, Gladstone's LNG export to China were at the record-breaking high of 1.49 million mt, up 30% year on year from 1.14 million mt and 13% higher month on month from 1.32 million mt, the GPC data showed. The previous record was set in December last year when 1.35 million mt was exported, the figures showed.

"Chinese gas demand is growing rapidly as the Chinese government works to reduce some of the world's worst urban air pollution," Bethune said, adding that in the July-September China's total LNG imports reached a record of 13.2 million mt - of which Australia supplied about 47%.

Bethune noted concerns about the impact China agreeing to increase its energy imports from the US at recent meetings between Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump will have on LNG producers. "However, most Australian LNG is sold under long-term contracts and two of the three major Chinese national oil and gas producers - Sinopec and CNOOC, have significant equity interests in Australian projects," he said.

Sinopec holds a 25% interest in APLNG and CNOOC has 50% equity in train 1 at QCLNG.

Based on Gladstone's annualized rate from January-November, the port is shaping up to ship 14.10 million mt to China in 2018, which compares to 11.59 million mt in 2017, according to the GPC figures.

The only other countries to be sent LNG from Gladstone in November were Japan, Malaysia and South Korea.

Volumes to Japan were steady at 140,839 mt, showing a 2% lift year on year from 138,100 mt and a 5% rise from 134,203 mt in October. Total shipments from Gladstone to Japan for the year are due to slump strongly from 2017's 2.73 million mt, with the 11-month 2018 annualized rate being 1.72 million mt, the data shows.

Likewise, volumes to South Korea are running at an annualized rate of 3.27 million mt, down considerably from a total of 3.95 million mt in 2017. South Korea was shipped 231,339 mt in November, down 36% from 360,249 mt a year earlier but recovering strongly, up 93%, from just 119,872 mt in October, GPC showed

Malaysia was shipped 63,066 mt of LNG from Gladstone during November, showing a 5% increase year on year from 59,866 mt and a 66% drop from the record 186,182 mt seen in October. The 2018 total for Gladstone-Malaysia shipments looks set to come in at about 889,202 mt based on the annualized rate, which will be a rise from 693,487 mt last year, the data shows.

--Nathan Richardson,

-- Edited by Elizabeth Thang,