SHANGHAI - Global natural gas market is undergoing substantial changes as demand from emerging economies such as China and India is increasing at a rapid pace, according to industry observers.
At the 19th International Conference and Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas in Shanghai earlier this month, industry experts said rising LNG supply and growing demand are injecting dynamism into the market.
The LNG conference, first held in 1968, is a triennial industry-event. This year marks the first time that the conference was held in China, the world's fastest-growing LNG market.
"Natural gas is playing a crucial role in global energy transition. As an efficient and clean fossil fuel, natural gas is considered an important 'bridge energy' toward low-carbon world," said Yang Hua, chairman of China National Offshore Oil Corporation, the largest offshore oil and gas producer in China.
As countries around the world are pushing ahead with energy transition policies to reduce carbon emissions, many institutions forecast that the global LNG demand will continue to rise.
By 2040, global natural gas demand will increase more than 40 percent from the 2017 level, according to the International Energy Agency. By that time, natural gas will become the second largest energy source in global energy mix, and its share in global primary energy demand will increase to about 25 percent from less than 23 percent in 2017.
"Most of this rising demand for natural gas will come from fast-growing economies whose energy systems still rely heavily on coal, such as China, India and other Asian countries," Patrick Pouyanne, chairman and chief executive officer of Total, said.
"One of the most striking examples is the massive promotion of natural gas by the Chinese government within the framework of the 'Beautiful China' development plan," Pouyanne said.
The IEA predicted that from 2017 to 2023, China alone would account for a third of global gas demand growth, thanks in part to the country's "Blue Skies" policy and the strong drive to improve air quality.
In 2018, China's natural gas consumption totaled 2100.3 billion cubic meters, a robust growth of 18 percent from a year ago. Driven by the growing gas consumption, China imported 90 million metric tons of natural gas in 2018, a year-on-year growth of almost 32 percent. The growth rate was higher than the 27-percent increase in 2017.
"Global LNG industry is undergoing substantial changes," Yang said, adding that with the rising LNG production capacity, the global LNG trade is expected to exceed 100 billion cubic meters by 20100, an increase of about 100 percent from 2017.
Within the next five years, the global natural gas liquefaction capacity is expected to increase by 100 percent from the 2015 level as new LNG development and expansion projects in the United States, Australia, Qatar and Russia become operational, according to Young-Doo Kim, acting president of Korea Gas Corporation, one of the world's largest LNG importers.
With the rising supply, fierce competition is expected in the global LNG market, which will offer more options for buyers and foster more flexible ways for LNG trade.
"With more market players and increased market liquidity, the global LNG market is expanding and taking on some positive changes, such as the emergence of new and flexible business modes and contract terms," said Wang Yilin, chairman of China National Petroleum Corporation.
However, Wang said the flexibility of LNG trade should be further enhanced. "More flexible contract terms and business modes could inject more liquidity into the market."