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Future LNG

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The present and future LNG trade is influenced by a number of factors. However, the structure of the global market of LNG impacts significantly on the present and future LNG trade (Yergin and Stoppard, 2003, pp. 103-114).  The main issues are variations in the mechanisms of pricing and the history of LNG in the Pacific and the Atlantic basins. Other matters revolving around the nature of LNG market are basically recent changes in the market that have been found to propagate flexibility in LNG trading. The declining trend in the cost of LNG conneced with a value chain and emerging participants in the LNG market also have a hand in the dynamism of the current market (The Global Liquefied Natural Gas Market 2003, par. 1-4). 

LNG trading started from different perspectives and forms in the Pacific and Atlantic basins. This has affected the volume of LNG import, the systems of pricing and the terms of contracts in the market. Importing nations in the Pacific Basin are nearly absolutely reliant on LNG, whereas nations in the Atlantic Basin utilize pipeline imports and home-based supplies together with LNG to suffice the demand of natural gas. In fact, current changes that have been realized in the LNG market proved to be increasingly flexible. It is no doubt that the terms of contracts in the market have loosened based on both quantity and price. Thus, market negotiations will be shorter, before being signed and executed (Hallouche 2006, pp.15-23).

These trends seem good, although there could be some uncertainties in determining the final retail prices of LNG. Liquefaction costs, shipping fees and degasification costs have been reduced greatly with time, hence, cutting down the cost of production. The market for LNG is basically facilitated through lasting contracts concerning mechanisms of pricing fixed for products of petroleum. However, this may not necessarily lead to less retail prices. Cheaper costs of operations may not benefit the final person in the supply chain.  Therefore, sellers and buyers take reversed roles in the market. Those involved in purchasing have currently been investing entirely in the upstream. This even includes plants that liquefy gas. Both the Tokyo Electric Power and the Tokyo Gas Company have invested in the Darwin Gas Liquefaction Company located in Australia.   On the other hand conventional sellers like Shell and BP have leased out their capacity terminals diversifying their role in trading.  Among emerging buyers there are the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico (Hughes 2011, pp. 11-21).

There are notable differences between the Pacific and Atlantic Basins. Original supplies of natural gas towards the end of the 20th century were enormous for many nations in the Atlantic Basin. Pipeline gas was readily available. It was not easy for LNG to contend and, as a result, the import of LNG into the Atlantic Basin experienced a slow growth. LNG forms a small part of the scale of natural gas available in Europe and American markets. LNG competes with both pipeline imports and domestic supplies. However, the Pacific Basin LNG importers like South Korea, Taiwan and Japan have very little production of domestic gas and there are no pipeline import sources for natural gas.  Current LNG importers around the Pacific Basin do not access natural gas through pipeline imports. However, LNG imports came into the region mainly in 1980s and up to early 1990s. This took place, because there was a need to supplement oil energy sources. The security of supply was a more significant consideration in this region than the price (The Global Liquefied Natural Gas Market 2003, par. 1-4).

The above issues, taking place in the second half of the 20th century, are likely to be replicated in current and future trends in LNG market.  Pricing around the world in LNG markets revolves around the same factors of availability and supply of supplementary fuels. LNG prices are normally expressed in American dollar per million Btu (MMBtu). Prices can be determined by the free on board (f.o.b.) or even calculated through delivered ex-ship. Most emerging contracts in the LNG market are based on f.o.b. The reason for this is that those making purchases regard this as getting more control over the already determined price and, thus, allowing buyers to trade excess LNG cargos. Gas “hubs” that involve both pipeline gas and LNG are emerging in the United Kingdom, America and Belgium offering opportunities for the arbitrage pricing and the ultimate convergence pricing (Eberhardt 2002, pp. 21-44).

In the past, LNG prices were high in the Pacific basin reaching a maximum of US$4/MMBtu. Pricing is generally less in the Atlantic Basin as compared to the Pacific Basin by US$1/MMBtu for the last decade. The increasing growth of LNG supply in the Middle East could lead to the convergence of the Pacific and Atlantic prices. Currently, the volume of Middle East LNG in the Atlantic Basin is comparatively small.  However, a number of Middle East projects take efforts to supply North American and European markets. Moreover, when terminals of LNG import are constructed in the West Coast of North America, suppliers from the Pacific Basin may finally get enhanced access to the market in the United States. Therefore, accessibility is a very important aspect in the LNG market. Prices can easily be controlled by means of the accessibility and availability of LNG supplies in various markets of the world (Eberhardt 2002, pp. 21-44).

It is very clear that LNG prices are benchmarked to supplementary competing fuels. There are different and autonomous markets of LNG each having its specific pricing structure. The risk of price is inherent in the particular structure of pricing, even though the level of risk varies for different markets. In America, competing fuel in the market is pipelined natural gas and the target price may be either in a particular market in lasting contracts or the Henry Hub value for short-term LNG sales.  Exporters and importers, taking part in LNG transactions in the United States, are faced with a very big risk, because of the high price volatility degree. In Europe, LNG prices are connected with competing fuel prices (Hughes 2011, pp. 11-21). Low-sulfur residual oil refers to this competing fuel. At the same time, LNG is currently connected with a natural gas spot and market prices in the future. In Asia, prices are influenced by the import of crude oil. The formula of pricing basically involves a basic indicator of prices for crude oil. A constant is also taken into consideration and may be a mechanism of formula review. Prices in Asia are usually higher as compared to other prices in other parts of the world.

There have been current changes in the LNG market based on pricing and contracts.  Even though, long-term contracts in the LNG market will not disappear, companies taking part in importing must look for increased flexibility and at the same time seek good terms of contract. Contracts, that cover the sale of about thirty million tons annually to people in Asia, are likely to search for adjustment in the future. Conventional contracts of LNG emphasized the supply security of buyers. Contracts in the LNG market could last for a long time and were very rigid. It was not easy to adjust them. Take-or-pay clauses moved the risk of volume to buyers. LNG was normally delivered ex-ship. This means that LNG was transported in the selected tankers. Contracts also included destination clauses that hampered buyers from selling cargos they had bought from the third parties. Changes have been made in the process towards the end of the 20th century. Suppliers of LNG provided more encouraging conditions, like significantly lower prices to emerging importers in China and India (Sen 2002, pp. 1-10). This made conventional LNG buyers look for lower prices when negotiations concerning contracts required an adjustment.

As LNG continues being a very important product in the market, more changes are likely to be realized. These include both changes in contracts and pricing procedures. The market is likely to experience some turbulence caused by the changing world economics. For instance, the Northwest Shelf Project of Australia decided to sell out LNG to China for a price that was said to be about $3 per million Btu. At this time, prices for crude oil were $20 per barrel. The actual price for LNG varied from the price realized in crude oil. Existing contracts with buyers from Japan are reportedly higher than contracts in China by about twenty percent (Yergin and Stoppard, 2003, pp. 103-114).

Again, when the utilities of Japan entered into a 20-year, 360-Bcf-per-year contract expiring for LNG of Malaysia, reports indicated a 5% reduction in price and a two-tier management of contract, when 1.2 million tons were annually sold out for the period of 4 years and the remaining for the period of 15 years. The other consequence was an agreement that almost a quarter of quantities will be sold out f.o.b. This increased flexibility of shipping and, at the same time, reduced the costs of freight for buyers. The contract also included short-term buying (Sen 2002, pp. 1-10).

In the United States market, the prices for LNG are connected with Henry Hub prices. These have been rising steadily in the market. Natural gas prices in America are expected to range from $3 to $4 MMBtu. This will remain so and will cut down the differential that exists between the Atlantic and Pacific markets on LNG prices. At the same time, the European Union holds the position that sellers of LNG must remove clauses of destination from contracts that they have been using. The dynamism of marketing enhances short-term sales of LNG. This accounted for 8% LNG trading in 2002. The short-term market of LNG was practically not there. It was only experienced several years ago, and few facilities of LNG were constructed until contracts of sales were signed for the whole capacity. In the recent past, some projects have gone ahead with unclaimed capacity. More flexible contracts and spare capacity will lead to increased sales within a short period (Drewry Shipping Consultants 2007, pp. 23-34).

One of the vital consequences of changing market environment is materialization of short-term LNG market. All cargos that have not traded in long-term contracts are described as short-term sales. This means any cargos that traded in contracts during less than one year together with individual LNG cargos purchased and sold out (Sen 2002, pp. 1-10). The short-term market will continue to be driven by the long-term market. These include uncommitted capacity of production, since some emerging plants are increased without making commitment to full production quantities. The example of this is Malaysia.

Among other factors there is an increasing demand of LNG and more importantly in the United States and Spain, where receiving terminals have surplus capacity, and Korea, which normally requires large quantities during winter. Moreover, the availability of ships, not making commitment to projects, also contributes to these short-term trends in the LNG market. Other contributing factor of the short-term scenario will definitely be realized, if there is a greater flexibility of contracts. Short-term trading is likely to continue growing, particularly in the Atlantic Basin. There could be a notable 15-20% increase in short-term trading in the Atlantic Basin in the near future. The subject of whether LNG will ever be a true product is still debatable (Sen 2002, pp. 1-10).

Generally an emerging global energy business of natural gas trading has been gradually developing. It will have a very big impact on the international economy, exposing new risks and opportunities, geopolitical arrangements and interdependencies. Natural gas is internationally traded. This will definitely cause addressing many urgent needs. The United States is to beware a looming shortage in energy, while Europe is to rejuvenate industry. Developing countries need to accelerate growth. To realize this, a clean environment is of paramount importance. The change will be realized both in LNG and pipeline supplies. LNG has been experiencing an increase in application, and the market has been diversifying worldwide (Yergin and Stoppard, 2003, pp. 103-114). There is an emerging international market for this commodity. This is more particular for offering lighting services and its use in factories and in air conditioning in the United States (Drewry Shipping Consultants 2007, pp. 23-34).

Well, one of the disturbing aspects of this emerging business of LNG trading is a recall of transformational years towards the end of 1960s that went on to cover during some part of early 1970s. This was a time when the United States integrated itself with the international market of oil. With a very little span of time, the United States became a major importer of petroleum. The surge in the total demand from the international market pulled through the engine of the United States economy. It helped to set the scene for the crises of oil in1970s and created reliance with which countries have wrestled internationally. Within a time exceeding half a century, America was largely self-sufficient in LNG, despite importing from Canada. In the near future, the United States are likely to be a big LNG importer. This could witness the United States overtake Japan and shift the market westward. The question is whether the United States will inadvertently amount new issues of security or whether emerging interdependencies will assist in reducing risks in the future (Parfomak 2003, pp. 9-23).

As LNG has been experiencing a growing trend in the market, constant attention should be paid to ensure transparent and fair regulation. There is an increasing demand to educate all stakeholders in the industry and the entire public concerning growing importance of LNG as a part of sustainable and viable supply of energy portfolio leading to extenuating volatility and increasing pressure on prices of LNG and electricity (Hallouche 2006, pp.15-23). Moreover, both regulators and industry participants need to gain trust and confidence from local stakeholders on matters of the LNG delivery on the regular basis in large quantities within a lengthy period of time. Matters of environmental and outstanding safety form an important component in the supply and, therefore, are to be taken care of in trading procedures.

With the increasing gas import in the United States, quality is also a determining factor. Varying heat content may affect the market in specific regions and, therefore, quality will influence importing in the future. Generally, LNG offers a way of connecting remote gas to markets. Notwithstanding a significant growth in the recent past, LNG has remained a small contributor to the international demand of gas (Parfomak 2003, pp. 9-23). Pipeline gas has dominated in the international market and, therefore, measures are to be taken to promote LNG trading. Unstable pricing and market conditions can be controlled by good foreign and fiscal policies.  At the same time, the current LNG development is a growing trend towards the future of the market. The increasing demand has been growing and can ensure a fully developed market for LNG. 

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