LNG demand from smaller markets seen growing
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — China, India and Europe will remain the main demand growth drivers for liquefied natural gas (LNG) but smaller markets are emerging to receive the new fuel capacity in the US, an integrated global gas business with a new business model predicts.
“There’s a number of new markets that are opening up, facilitated by new technology called floating storage and regasification units or FSRUs,” said Renee Pirrong, research and analysis manager of Tellurian, Inc.
Based in Houston, Texas, the company she represents has presented a new business model that departs from the traditional set up for gas businesses in the US.
“Traditionally, you’d have to build a rather large land-based import facility, but now we’ve actually started converting LNG carriers into regasification facilities, which makes it a lot faster to build infrastructure. All you really have to do is build a port and hook up an FSRU to that port,” Ms. Pirrong told reporters from Asia and Europe, or regions where the company expects LNG demand to come from.
Tellurian’s business model promises natural gas prices at the lift cost, or the price it takes to extract the fuel from the ground. But to be able to do that, the customer is required to be an equity investor.
“Essentially you’d purchase 1 million tons of LNG for an upfront cost of $500 million. So an equity cost of $500 per ton, and for that cost you are entitled to lift LNG at the facility at cost, so you’re not paying a premium every month for your long-term contract,” Ms. Pirrong said.
Tellurian subsidiary Driftwood LNG LLC is developing the production and export terminal in Louisiana. Once completed, the facility will be able to export up to 27.6 million tons of LNG a year to customers anywhere in the world.
Joi Lecznar, Tellurian senior vice-president-public affairs and communication, said Driftwood has secured all the required permits from the US government.
“We have secured one partner so far — Total. They have invested enough,” she said.
Of Driftwood’s capacity, she said Tellurian would be retaining 14 million tons for its own trading portfolio. The group plans to trade in London apart from its existing trading activities in Singapore.
Ms. Pirrong said at least 100 million tons and potentially up to 250 million tons of capacity is required to satisfy demand growth on a global basis.
That demand makes the US well-positioned to export its LNG. The country has emerged as the largest producer of oil and gas in the world largely because of the shale revolution, which started before around 2010 as private exploration and production companies started experimenting with ways to extract resources from shale.
Ms. Pirrong said the US in 2018 had the largest year-on-year growth of oil production in the world. The dramatic growth in natural gas and oil production in the country has had an impact on the prices of the commodities.
“It was the largest not only in the United States but on a global basis. And that was entirely driven from the shale revolution,” she added. “What that has done, it has a corresponding downward impact on global oil prices.”
Ms. Pirrong pointed to a “synergistic relationship” where the US needs global markets as an outlet for its excess production, and global markets need the US for gas supply. Asia, for instance, needs gas for power generation.
“We’re seeing a lot of emerging markets such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Lithuania using FSRUs as a way to provide greater optionality for fuel imports, and as a low-cost way and a fast way to do so,” she said.
With the assets Tellurian is developing — from production, developing pipelines and the plant itself, it anticipates to build energy infrastructure worth about $30 billion from the Driftwood project alone.
“We believe that we can produce LNG at $3 per mmBtu (million British thermal unit),” Ms. Pirrong said, adding even assuming a shipping cost of about $1.50 a destination in Asia could mean a total cost of $4.50 per mmBtu, the benchmark in pricing the fuel. — Victor V. Saulon