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Australia hikes LNG export forecasts for fiscal 2018, 2019

Sydney — The Australian government has marginally lifted its forecast for LNG exports for fiscal 2018 and 2019 (July-June), following the startup of Woodside's Wheatstone LNG, Inpex's Ichthys LNG, and Royal Dutch Shell's Prelude LNG projects.

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"Production at Wheatstone will be substantially higher in 2018-2019 than in 2017-2018, with the project having ramped up to near full capacity last year," said the Resources and Energy Quarterly report published by the office of the chief economist under the Department of Industry.

The Ichthys project shipped its first LNG cargo in October, and is expected to bring the second train online in 2019, it said, adding that Prelude was expected to begin LNG production before the end of 2018, although this had not happened as yet.

The Australian government expects LNG exports of 74.9 million mt in fiscal 2018-2019, up marginally from 74.7 million mt forecast in the September edition of the report.

It lifted the fiscal 2019-2020 forecast by 1% to 78.3 million mt. Those figures compare to LNG exports of 62.7 million mt in fiscal 2017-2018 and 52.1 million mt in fiscal 2016-2017.

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The chief economist raised the forecast for world LNG trade to 329.1 million mt this year, up 2% from the previous forecast. The report also showed a 1% increase in global LNG trade for 2019 and 2020 to 349.6 million mt and 367.4 million mt, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Australian government cut its expectations for the country's crude and condensate production and exports, an raised its forecast for imports of the fuels.

It lowered the forecast for crude and condensate exports for fiscal 2018-2019 by 4% to 264,000 b/d and to 319,000 b/d for 2019-2020. The expected production was cut by 2% for both financial years to 326,000 b/d and 392,000 b/d, respectively.

Import forecast for crude and condensates were raised by 2% for each fiscal year to 398,000 b/d and 381,000 b/d, respectively.

Australia remains on track to be the world's biggest LNG exporter next year, but it probably won't hold the title for long as Qatar has plans to lift its export capacity to 110 million mt, and the US develops new LNG export projects underpinned by low-cost shale gas production by the mid-2020s.

"Monthly shipping data suggests that Australia exported slightly more LNG than Qatar for the first time in November this year," it said.

-- Nathan Richardson, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by E Shailaja Nair, newsdesk@spglobal.com