Posts Tagged ‘liquefied natural gas’

China Sucks Gas Out of Global Market Amid Shift From Coal

January 23, 2018

Move boosts LNG price and leaves large swathes of industry in China struggling with limited gas supplies

Heavy smog envelops the express road in Shijiazhuang, north China's Hebei Province, in October. China’s smog levels are well in excess of World Health Organization standards.
Heavy smog envelops the express road in Shijiazhuang, north China’s Hebei Province, in October. China’s smog levels are well in excess of World Health Organization standards. PHOTO: JIA MINJIE/ZUMA PRESS

China is replacing coal with gas, sucking up global supplies of the fuel and pushing up the price of liquefied natural gas to a three-year high.

The world’s No. 2 economy is cutting back on coal after President Xi Jinping made a cleaner environment a key priority at last Fall’s Communist Party Congress.

That has left large swathes of industry in China struggling with limited gas, including giants like German chemical company BASF SE and local producer Yunnan Yuntianhua Co., as supplies are diverted to households that had previously relied on coal for heating.

China’s smog levels are still well in excess of World Health Organization standards, and analysts see no letup in the country’s move out of coal, which releases more greenhouse gas emissions than gas.

That’s good news for the LNG industry, which ships super chilled gas in its liquid form, at a time when large amounts of new supply has limited price gains.

“We were optimistic on the opportunity in China, but the magnitude surprised us,” said Anatol Feygin, chief commercial officer at U.S. LNG exporter Cheniere Energy Inc.

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Japan Korea Marker, per million Britishthermal unitsSource: S&P Global PlattsNote: 2018 demand is an estimate

Cheniere opened an office in Beijing in 2017 to market its LNG and is in discussions with China National Petroleum Corp. for a long-term sales contract for U.S. gas. Among others, Malaysia’s national energy company Petronas also announced plans last year to expand their LNG sales in Southern China.

The price of LNG delivered to Asia hit $11.70 per million British thermal units this month, its highest level since November 2014, according to the Platts JKM benchmark price.

Chinese LNG imports rose by almost 50% in 2017, and the country has now eclipsed South Korea to become the world’s second-largest importer behind Japan.

The extra imports still haven’t been enough for some parts of Chinese industry.

On Dec.12, BASF stopped producing some chemicals at a Chongqing-based facility due to “a supply shortage of natural gas,” it said in a statement at the time. The company told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that its production remained suspended and it is unclear when it will resume.

Yunnan Yuntianhua said on Dec. 13 that its ammonia and urea production lines in the southwest province of Yunnan were halted due to “partial suspension in natural gas supply in southwest regions” to ensure heating demand for residents during the winter, according to a company filing to the Shanghai stock exchange.

Analysts say that given Beijing’s very public commitment to improving air quality, the shift away from coal is unlikely to lose urgency over the medium term. But neither will Chinese policy makers let citizens freeze, meaning that gas supplies will continue to be diverted to households.

“It’s clear that Beijing will continue its push to reduce reliance on coal,” said Fan Qingtian, senior analyst at Changjiang Futures Co. It isn’t unusual for Chinese policy makers to implement broad rulings that lead to unintended consequences, he said.

China has committed to increasing gas’s share of its energy mix to 10% by 2020 from its current level of around 7%. That could increase annual gas demand by more than 50% from 2016 levels to 325 billion cubic meters, according to Bernstein.

“There’s an issue of how quickly can this be achieved without creating bottlenecks and price spikes especially when it’s cold,” said Kerry Anne Shanks, head of Asia Pacific LNG research at consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

The surge in demand from China couldn’t have come at a better time for the LNG market. A wave of new projects in Australia, the U.S. and Russia have helped keep the price of LNG at almost half its 2014 peak of more than $20 per million BTUs.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the biggest LNG shipper and producer, estimates that from 2016 to 2020, trade will increase by one-third to 350 million tonnes a year.

“I think part of the reason they [China] decided to do this was they knew they could purchase extra amounts from the market without tripling the price of LNG,” said Alan Townsend, senior energy specialist at the World Bank.

As it takes in more gas, China has been beefing up import facilities, according to consultancy Energy Aspects.

At the end of last year, China had the capacity to import 56 million tonnes of LNG a year and that is set to rise by a third to 74 million tonnes by 2020. A new pipeline from Russia to China is due to be completed in 2019, plus production from domestic gas fields is ramping up.

The move to gas is set to stay.

“Once certain cities, industries go into gas, they can’t get out; it’s that simple, even if the price increases,” said Javier Moret, global head of LNG at RWE Supply & Trading GmbH.

Write to Sarah McFarlane at and Nathaniel Taplin at


Qatar merger creates state-owned gas giant — Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of LNG

January 3, 2018


© AFP/File | Gas exports have helped make Qatar one of the world’s richest countries

DOHA (AFP) – Qatar said Wednesday that the two state-owned firms running the country’s natural gas business had merged in a move aimed at cutting costs and creating a global energy giant.Qatargas and RasGas, operators of the wealthy emirate’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry, were merged under the brand name Qatargas.

Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of LNG and the tie-up comes at a time of political crisis for the Gulf state, which has been blockaded by neighbouring countries for the past seven months.

“On January 1, we announced the birth of the new Qatargas,” the chief executive of national oil company Qatar Petroleum, Saad al-Kaabi, told a press conference.

Kaabi said the merger will save two billion Qatari riyals ($545 million) annually.

When the plan was first announced in December 2016, Qatar said it wanted to create a truly unique global energy operator in terms of size, service and reliability.

Gas exports have helped make tiny Qatar one of the world’s richest countries.

Before the tie-up between the two companies, RasGas held no assets but oversaw and managed all LNG operations in the emirate.

Qatargas is the world’s largest LNG producer with output of around 77 million tonnes per year.

Last year, Qatar announced it would increase production in the North Field, the world’s largest gas field which it shares with Iran, to 100 million tonnes by 2024.

Both of the merged companies had joint ventures with oil companies including ExxonMobil, Total and Shell.

Senior executives from those companies were at Wednesday’s press conference.

Kaabi also confirmed that Qatar Petroleum is interested in investing in Iraq’s energy market.

He said he had held talks with Iraqi ministers about possible commercial tie-ups.

“Iraq is a very important country in the region,” he said.

China U-turns on coal ban amid growing outcry over numbers left freezing in winter cold

December 7, 2017

Northern officials told that keeping people warm is ‘number one’ priority as dash for gas fails to ensure adequate power supplies

By Viola Zhou
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 December, 2017, 12:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 December, 2017, 8:52pm

China has relaxed a coal ban in northern cities designed to reduce air pollution amid a growing outcry from people left without a reliable energy supply as winter sets in.

The government’s initial restriction on burning coal led to millions of families being forced to convert to cleaner fuels, such as natural gas, for heating and cooking. However, delays in setting up pipelines and severe supply shortages have left many out in the cold.

In a “double urgent” letter dated Monday, the Ministry of Environmental Protection told authorities in 28 cities to relax the coal ban at places where the conversion process had not been completed, People’s Daily reported on Thursday.

 A boy in Hunan province tries to keep warm in front of a portable stove. Photo: Xinhua

The letter also called on local officials to ensure energy prices and supplies remained stable for those people who had already switched to using gas or electricity.

“Keeping people warm in winter should be the number one principle,” the letter said, adding that the ministry would pay special attention to the issue during future inspections.

It was unclear whether the easing of the ban would apply to other cities, but the ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.

Beijing has stepped up its efforts to phase out coal use ahead of this year’s deadline for air quality targets, vowing to switch 3 million households in the 28 northern cities to gas or electricity.

But while coal has been banned in villages and communities, many residents have yet to be provided with an alternative.

According to recent media reports, pupils at schools in some rural areas whose coal-fired heaters had been dismantled were forced to study outside – as it was warmer than inside – or run around to generate body heat.

The education ministry said it had ordered local governments to resolve the heating problem immediately after the reports prompted an outburst of criticism on social media.

“The children’s [suffering] has indeed hurt our hearts badly,” ministry spokeswoman Xu Mei said at a news briefing on Wednesday, according to Xinhua.

Meanwhile, the coal ban has led to gas shortages and surging prices since the onset of winter, forcing some cities to halt supplies to factories.

China National Petroleum Corp also warned on Thursday that China could see natural gas shortages if the country was hit by “extreme” weather this winter.

Image result for China National Petroleum Corp, photos

The environmental campaign has helped push demand for gas to new highs, but a lack of storage and transport infrastructure means supply is failing to keep pace, the company said in a research report.

As a result, the government would help energy companies to increase imports of natural gas via cross-border pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals, commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said on Thursday.

Gas imports in the first 10 months of the year rose 24.9 per cent from the same period of 2016, he said.

According to a Bloomberg report published on Thursday, China is on course to overtake South Korea to become the world’s second-largest importer of liquefied natural gas, behind Japan. It is already the world’s top energy user.

Tankers with a combined capacity of 33.6 million tonnes have visited China this year, just 1.7 million below South Korea’s total, the report said.

Qatar accuses Saudi Arabia of promoting ‘regime change’

October 18, 2017

Al Jazeera

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani says the blockading nations' plan is to 'disrespect and bully' [Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters]
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani says the blockading nations’ plan is to ‘disrespect and bully’ [Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters]

Qatar has accused Saudi Arabia of trying to engineer “regime change” during its four-month blockade of its Gulf neighbour.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told CNBC on Tuesday that Riyadh is attempting to destabilise Qatar’s leadership.

“We see [Saudi] government officials talking about regime change… We see a country that is bringing back the dark ages of tribes and putting them together in order to create a pressure on connected tribes in Qatar,” he said.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt severed diplomatic and trade links with Qatar on June 5, accusing Doha of supporting “extremism and terrorism” and cozying up to Iran – a regional nemesis.

Qatar has vehemently denied all allegations.

Sheikh Mohammed said the plan of the blockading countries was not to thwart terrorism but to “disrespect and bully”.

“It is nothing to do with stopping financing terrorism or hate speech while they are doing the same by promoting incitement against my country, promoting a regime change in my country,” he told the US broadcaster.

Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, and also houses the region’s biggest US military base with more than 11,000 American troops.

READ MORE: Qatar-Gulf crisis: All the latest updates

Sheikh Mohammed said the blockade has impeded the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the region.

The airspace blockade meant that Qatari aircraft providing logistical support for the American military base have been diverted, and Qatari officers participating in operations against ISIL were expelled from the Bahrain-based US military headquarters.

“So there are a lot of things which undermine … the global efforts in countering … Daesh,” Sheikh Mohammed said, referring to ISIL by an Arabic acronym.

China Imposes Limit on Oil Supply to North Korea

September 23, 2017

BEIJING — China announced Saturday that it will limit energy supplies to North Korea and stop buying its textiles under U.N. sanctions imposed over its nuclear and missile development, further reducing support from Pyongyang’s last ally.

Exports of refined petroleum to the North will be limited to 2 million barrels per year, effective Jan. 1, the Commerce Ministry said. Sales of liquefied natural gas are banned outright.

North Korea depends on China for almost all its oil and gas but estimates of its consumption are low, leaving it unclear how Beijing’s new limit will affect them. The restrictions announced Saturday do not apply to crude oil, which makes up the biggest share of energy exports to the North.

China also will ban textile imports from the North, the ministry said. Textiles are believed to be the North’s biggest source of foreign revenue following rounds of U.N. sanctions under which Beijing cut off purchases of coal, iron ore, seafood and other goods.

China accounts for some 90 percent of the North’s trade, making its cooperation critical to efforts to derail Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development.

 No automatic alt text available.
FILE – In this May 8, 2016, file photo, a North Korean solder stands guard near barrels stacked up near the river bank of the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong. China announced Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 it will limit oil supplies to North Korea under U.N. sanctions starting Oct. 1, 2017, stepping up pressure on Pyongyang over its pursuit of nuclear and missile technology. (Chinatopix via AP, File) The Associated Press

Chinese leaders were long the North’s diplomatic protectors but express increasing frustration with the government of Kim Jong Un. They support the latest U.N. Security Council sanctions but are reluctant to push Pyongyang too hard for fear Kim’s government might collapse. They also argue against doing anything that might hurt ordinary North Koreans.

Chinese officials complain their country bears the cost of enforcing sanctions, which have hurt businesses in its northeast that trade with the North.

The U.N. Security Council voted Sept. 11 to limit fuel supplies and ban the North’s textile exports. China, one of five permanent council members with power to veto U.N. action, agreed to the measure after the United States toned down a proposal for a complete oil embargo.

Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance at the newly built Wisong Scientists Residential District  in this undated photo released by KCNANorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the newly built Wisong Scientists Residential District in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on Oct. 14, 2014. KCNA via Reuters

Petroleum exports for use in the North’s ballistic missile program or other activities banned by U.N. sanctions also are prohibited, the Commerce Ministry said.

The U.S. government’s Energy Information Agency estimates the North’s 2016 daily imports from China at 15,000 barrels of crude oil and 6,000 barrels of refined products. That would be the equivalent of almost 5.5 million barrels of crude and 2.2 million barrels of refined products for the full year.

North Korea has abundant coal but depends almost entirely on imports for oil and gas.

North Korean textile exports in 2016 totaled $750 million, according to South Korea’s Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency. It said nearly 80 percent went to China.

Lithuania Takes Delivery of US Gas to Cut Reliance on Moscow

August 21, 2017

KLAIPEDA, Lithuania — Lithuania has taken delivery of its first shipment of liquefied natural gas from the United States, a milestone that the Baltic state hopes will further reduce its reliance on Russia.

Independence, the U.S.-based tanker, docked Monday in the port of Klaipeda to offload some 150,000 cubic meters (200 cubic yards) of gas at a fully functioning offshore terminal that is capable of covering most of Lithuania’s annual energy needs.

Energy Minister Zygymantas Vaiciunas said the U.S. is already the country’s most-important strategic partner and now becomes “a reliable LNG supplier for the whole region.”

Moscow has used gas supplies to put pressure on Ukraine, which like the Baltic states was once part of the Soviet Union. That’s driven the urgency into projects to diversify sources to reduce dependence on Russia.

Locator map of Lithuania

Japan, Russia Need to Enhance Trust Before Gas Pipeline Plans: Minister

August 7, 2017

TOKYO — Japan and Russia need to work on building a more trusting relationship before any plans to build a natural gas pipeline between the two nations can be fulfilled, Japan’s Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko said on Monday.

Image result for japan, russia, LNG, photos

Building a pipeline linking Russia and Japan is a long-standing idea, but a dispute over islands seized by Russia near the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido at the end of the World War Two has kept relations testy at times.

Japanese gas and electric utilities that have invested heavily in import terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) may also be reluctant to invest in a pipeline.

“Without a sense of further sense of trust such as a peace treaty, a pipeline would be no good,” Seko said during a speech in Tokyo while answering a question about Japan’s energy relationship with Russia.

Japan imports nearly all of its energy sources and is the world’s biggest buyer of LNG, which is natural gas cooled until it becomes a liquid and then transported on ships.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in April that Japan wants to resolve a territorial row that has over-shadowed ties with Russia since World War Two.

The islands were seized by Soviet forces at the end of the war and 17,000 Japanese residents were forced to flee.

Despite the lingering dispute, Seko said that Japan imports around 10 percent of its LNG from Russia and the country could increase its reliance on Russia’s LNG a little bit more.

(Reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto; Writing by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Christian Schmollinger)

Pakistani lawmakers elect ousted PM Nawaz Sharif’s ally as replacement

August 1, 2017


By Asif Shahzad and Drazen Jorgic

AUGUST 1, 2017 / 3:08 AM

Image result for Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, photos

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani lawmakers on Tuesday elected former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, an ally of ousted leader Nawaz Sharif, to replace him and the new premier immediately sought to project an image of stability.

Lawmakers of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party banged on benches and chanted “Lion, lion Nawaz Sharif” after the vote, standing defiant in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to cut short his third stint in power.

A quick transition may ease fears that the nuclear-armed nation will be plunged into another bout of political turmoil, which could erode economic and security gains since the last poll in 2013.

Sharif resigned on Friday after the Supreme Court disqualified him for not declaring a source of income – which the three-time premier disputes receiving. He nominated staunch ally Abbasi as interim leader until his brother, Shahbaz, becomes eligible to take over, probably within two months.

Abbasi was confirmed with 221 votes in the 342-seat National Assembly as the PML-N used its hefty majority to push through his appointment. PML-N officials hugged each other and congratulated Abbasi even before the result was announced.

“Within four days the process of democracy is back on track,” Abbasi told lawmakers after being voted in. “Above all, I’m thankful to Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the people’s prime minister.”

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif (R) and his brother Shahbaz. AFP photo

PML-N officials have privately spoken of plans for Sharif to wield huge influence in the party from behind the scenes.

“The prime objective is to give Pakistan stability,” said Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan, a PML-N lawmaker in the national assembly. “As a responsible party we have to take Pakistan ahead.”

But the plan to eventually install Shahbaz has also sparked anger among supporters of opposition leader Imran Khan, who has criticized another bout of dynastic politics, a trend with a long history in Pakistan and elsewhere in South Asia.

Khan, who agitated with street protests until the Supreme Court took up a corruption case against Sharif, has called the family a “monarchy” and accused it of trying to turn the country into a personal fiefdom.

Shahbaz, now chief minister of eastern Punjab province that is home to more than half of Pakistan’s 190 million people, will have to resign and fight a parliamentary by-election before he can take over as prime minister.

Aides say he is likely to favor a new personal style of government, while probably continuing his brother’s focus on huge infrastructure projects and policies favoring business.

Interim Leader

Western-educated Abbasi, who started his career as a businessman, has spent most of his political life by Sharif’s side. He was jailed after Pakistan’s powerful military staged a coup in 1999 to topple a previous Sharif government.

As minister of petroleum and natural resources in Sharif’s last cabinet, he championed a push to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure and alleviate energy shortages.

The effort has attracted foreign companies, who now see Pakistan as one of the world’s fastest-growing markets. Growth will increase fivefold, Abbasi told Reuters last month.

The opposition has also accused Abbasi of corruption over the bidding for an LNG deal in southern Karachi, citing a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiry case filed in 2015 that alleges procurement irregularities.

The NAB case has made little progress and Abbasi has denied wrongdoing, with PML-N allies saying the opposition wants to detract from the success of the LNG effort.

In Pakistan’s rough-and-tumble politics, charges of corruption against leading politicians are common and several figures, including opposition leader Khan, face court cases.

Besides ordering Sharif’s removal, the Supreme Court also ordered a criminal investigation into him and his family, as well as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

How Energy-Rich Australia Exported Its Way Into an Energy Crisis

July 10, 2017

The world’s No. 2 seller abroad of liquefied natural gas holds so little in reserve that it can’t keep the lights on in Adelaide—a cautionary tale for the U.S.

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and water

The LNG carrier Methane Spirit loads the the first LNG cargo from Australia Pacific LNG, January 9, 2016. Photo: Australia Pacific LNG

July 10, 2017 11:34 a.m. ET

On a sweltering night this February, the world’s No. 2 exporter of liquefied natural gas didn’t have enough energy left to keep its own citizens cool.

A nationwide heat wave in Australia drove temperatures above 105 degrees Fahrenheit around the city of Adelaide on the southern coast. As air-conditioning demand soared, regulators called on Pelican Point, a local gas-fueled power station running at half capacity, to crank up.

It couldn’t. The plant’s operator said it wasn’t able to get enough natural gas quickly to run its turbines fully. At 6:03 p.m., regulators cut power to 90,000 Adelaide homes to prevent a wider blackout.

Resource-rich Australia has an energy crisis, one that offers lessons for America as it prepares to vastly increase natural-gas shipments abroad.

Australia now exports so much liquefied natural gas, or LNG, it may overtake No. 1 exporter Qatar within several years. It exported 62% of its gas production last year, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

Yet its policy makers didn’t ensure enough gas would remain at home. As exports increased from new LNG facilities in eastern Australia, some state governments let aging coal plants close and accelerated a push toward renewable energy for environmental concerns. That left the regions more reliant on gas for power, especially when intermittent sources such as wind and solar weren’t sufficient.

Shortages drove domestic gas prices earlier this year in some markets in eastern Australia to as high as $17 per million British thermal units for smaller gas users such as manufacturers. On the spot market, gas prices have gone from below $1 in 2014 to roughly $7 today—well above the roughly $3 that prevails in the U.S.—causing havoc around the country.

In March, Australia’s largest aluminum smelter cut production and laid off workers because it said it couldn’t secure enough cheap energy. During one blackout last year, some families lost embryos in an in-vitro-fertilization clinic with no backup generation, according to a government-commissioned report. In February, some tuna fishermen watched catches rot because freezers shut off.

The blackouts have been severe enough to catch the attention of Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk, who said last week he agreed to build a giant battery system in the state of South Australia, where Adelaide is the capital city, to store power from a wind farm. Such a system could provide electricity during shortages.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in an emailed response to Wall Street Journal questions, blamed previous Labor governments. Mr. Turnbull, of the center-right Liberal Party, said “gas export licenses were issued without regard to the consequences for the domestic market,” and, “as a result, at a time of record gas production we have had the prospect of a shortage of domestic gas on the east coast.”

An LNG export facility in the distance near Gladstone.Photo: Rachel Pannett/The Wall Street Journal

The Labor Party says that when the LNG-export plants were approved, the industry said sales abroad wouldn’t impact domestic gas supply because it was developing new sources of gas. “It is clear that those assurances haven’t come to pass,” said Mark Butler, the Labor lawmaker who is currently its spokesman on energy. “If we had our time again, we would have put in place a national-interest test,” he said. Such a test insures domestic needs are protected.

Australia’s plight is less likely in America, which is experiencing a gas glut and is boosting exports. The first LNG-export terminal in the lower 48 states opened in Louisiana last year, allowing exports by ship in addition to existing pipelines to Mexico and Canada. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said at his Senate confirmation hearing he wanted to boost natural-gas exports.

The U.S. is on track to become the world’s No. 3 LNG exporter behind Qatar and Australia by 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

Unlike Australia—which has plentiful gas supplies in its west but no pipelines to get them to its gas-starved east—the U.S. has a large pipeline grid, making it easier to move supplies during shortages. It also has largely avoided the kind of long-term export contracts that trapped Australian companies into giving foreign buyers priority.

Still, Australia’s gas pains offer a case study in what can go wrong in committing to expanding exports at the same time as other steady power sources are shutting down, said Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. “We have more options” in America than Australia, he said, but “there’s always a risk that markets will behave in a different way than we anticipated.”

“There’s no one country that has mastered this,” Mr. Webber said. “We’re all learning from each other.”

Until the 2000s, Australia was a minnow in international energy markets. It had major gas deposits off its northwestern coast, but coal remained its dominant fuel source.

New gas source

Geologists had suspected there was methane gas buried in Australia’s vast coal seams. When energy prices climbed with Chinese demand, companies including BG Group PLC, now owned by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, rushed to extract this “coal-seam gas”—a process that involves pushing gas out of seams, sometimes through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”—in Australia’s east.

ConocoPhillips bought a 50% stake in an Australian coal-seam-gas venture for $8 billion in 2008. In 2010, Shell and PetroChina Co. in a $3 billion deal acquired coal-seam-gas producer Arrow Energy, which had a market value of $10 million a few years earlier.

Producers say they concluded the only way to justify the cost of extracting coal-seam gas was to sell it abroad, where demand was higher and customers would agree to long-term contracts. They also needed money to build terminals on the east coast to convert gas into liquid for shipping.

In 2009, BG Group and Adelaide-based Santos Ltd. signed 20-year export deals, the first of a string of long-term export contracts that coal-seam-gas concerns in Australia would sign.

In a 2009 report, the northeastern Queensland state’s government warned of “a real problem that the availability of gas in the ground may not translate into gas supplied to the domestic market.” It suggested requiring energy companies keep up to 20% of production for domestic users.

Australia’s energy companies argued such “gas reservation” policies would deter investment needed to boost supply. Many politicians emphasized how LNG projects would create jobs in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Lynda Pearce, 68, has seen her power bill go up.Photo: Rachel Pannett/The Wall Street Journal

Queensland didn’t institute a gas-reservation plan. Its government now says it couldn’t have predicted all the forces creating current shortages.

Western Australia state did implement a similar plan years before for its offshore gas, avoiding local gas shortages. The plan also applied to exports from LNG terminals added on the west coast after 2009.

In Australia’s east, three terminals were built off Gladstone in Queensland.

As gas production increased, Australia cut back on coal, whose use had put it among the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas emitters per capita. Coal-fueled plants were shut down without comprehensive plans for replacing them with other power sources.

South Australia and Queensland, in 2014 and 2015, set targets to get 50% of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar. Gas, the argument went, would help fill the gap when renewable power wasn’t sufficient.

Some prospective new gas sources in the east were being shut down, with New South Wales placing a moratorium on fracking in 2011 and later freezing new exploration licenses for coal-seam gas. Victoria in March this year banned fracking and new coal-seam-gas development.

Santos and its partners weren’t able to pump as much gas as expected and began signing third-party supply contracts, including from other gas producers and electricity companies to meet export obligations, adding to factors driving up domestic prices.

As prices rose, some manufacturers using gas, such as fertilizer makers, publicly threatened to move operations abroad. Power plants relying on gas—currently about 25% of Australia’s power grid—raised rates.

“Santos has been singled out as almost the sole cause” of Australia’s gas problems, Santos Chairman Peter Coates told shareholders in May. Coal-seam gas could underpin Australia’s long-term needs with more investment and never would have been developed without foreign buyers, he said. “The gas would still be sitting in the ground.”

Gladstone, the city with the three new LNG-export facilities, has been among areas most affected. It is home to manufacturers that use gas, including Australia’s largest aluminum smelter, a Rio Tinto PLC plant that once distributed beer-can holders reading: “Proudly Australian, operating beyond 2030.”

In March, Rio Tinto cut 14% of the smelter’s production and laid off 100 workers, saying it couldn’t secure enough inexpensive energy. Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques in May said: “The price was so high that it didn’t make any sense anymore for us to produce.”

Kirsty Callander said her Fit Life smoothie-and-snack bar in Gladstone has seen business shrivel since the smelter layoffs. “I think Australia should keep what’s ours,” she said, “and get the jobs and money coming here.” Down the road at Tannum Meats, store manager Nathan Lynn said he once sold a dozen rib-eye steaks a day and now is lucky to sell that in four days.

Kirsty Callander has seen business shrivel since the smelter layoffs.Photo: Rachel Pannett/The Wall Street Journal

In February, regulators ordered another aluminum smelter, in New South Wales, to cut production to prevent power outages in the state, which includes Sydney.

Repeated outages

Outages have become a familiar gas-crisis byproduct, including one last September in which 1.7 million households and businesses in South Australia state lost power after tornadoes damaged lines supplying power from Victoria. South Australia was relying on other states for electricity because volatile gas prices and other issues had forced its generators to cut capacity. Power wasn’t fully restored for 12 days.

In the week that Adelaide’s February blackout cut power to 90,000 homes, five ships left Gladstone carrying out 314,000 tons of LNG altogether, according to the port operator. That’s enough to generate electricity for roughly 750,000 Australian homes for a year, according to calculations for the Journal by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The Adelaide blackout traced to 2015, when the Pelican Point gas-fired power plant’s owner, Engie SA  of France, mothballed one of its two turbines, saying it was too expensive to run at prevailing gas prices.

When Australia’s electricity overseer, the Australian Energy Market Operator, ordered Pelican Point to fire up its second turbine that hot February day, Engie initially said it wasn’t available. When the regulator insisted, Engie said it couldn’t move quickly without gas-supply contracts.

Pelican Point power station.jpg

Engie declined to comment about the blackout. In a media statement afterward, it said: “There is no commercial rationale to operate the second Pelican Point unit in the current market environment in [South Australia] for a small number of days across the year.”

Engie in March agreed to restart the second turbine after Origin Energy Ltd. , which operates one of the Queensland LNG plants, committed to provide gas to Pelican Point and buy some of its electricity.

Prime Minister Turnbull that month urged producers to reserve more gas for the domestic market. He declared in April he would invoke little-used trade powers to block some exports until local needs were met; the measures went into effect July 1.

The energy regulator in June said the market and government response should help secure the power grid, though it “remains susceptible” to extreme summer conditions.

South Australia and Queensland are promising to open more land to gas development. Shell has reduced exports from one Australian LNG facility to supply more gas locally and recently signed supply contracts with utilities, including a short-term deal with Engie.

Companies’ flexibility to make such concessions is constrained by overseas contracts, industry analysts say. Without more gas production or faster development of other power sources, many say, Australia faces more shortfalls.

“It takes long lead times to bring on new gas developments,” said Saul Kavonic, a Perth-based analyst at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie. “You can’t just press a magic button and fix it overnight.”

Meanwhile, budgets of Australians such as retiree Lynda Pearce, 68, are feeling the shortage’s impact. “I’m really worried about what’s going to happen. It’s sort of like waiting for a bomb to explode,” said Ms. Pearce, who in a Gladstone suburb has seen her power bill go up around 6% in three months.

Nearby, Gladstone’s LNG plants continue exporting. “It seems stupid,” she said, “to send the gas offshore when people want it here.”



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South Australia power lines down after storm


Gulf deadline to resolve Qatar rift approaches

July 2, 2017

Buildings are seen on a coast line in Doha, Qatar June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer
By Sylvia Westall | DUBAI

Qatar faces possible further sanctions by Arab states that have severed ties with Doha over allegations of links to terrorism, as a deadline to accept a series of demands is expected to expire on Sunday night with no signs of the crisis ending.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the demands were made to be rejected, adding that the Arab ultimatum was aimed not at tackling terrorism but at curtailing his country’s sovereignty.

But he told reporters in Rome that Doha remained ready to sit down and discuss the grievances raised by its Arab neighbors.

“This list of demands is made to be rejected. It’s not meant to be accepted or …to be negotiated,” Sheikh Mohammed said in Rome. “The state of Qatar instead of rejecting it as a principle, we are willing to engage in (dialogue), providing the proper conditions for further dialogue.”

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani attends a news conference in Rome, Italy, July 1, 2017.REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

He added that no one had the right to issue an ultimatum to a sovereign country.

The feud erupted last month when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and travel ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and being an ally of regional foe Iran, charges which Doha denies.

The countries have threatened further sanctions against Qatar if it does not comply with their list of 13 demands which were presented to Doha by Kuwaiti mediators 10 days ago.

The demands include closing a Turkish military base in Qatar and shutting down the Al Jazeera pan-Arab television network, which Doha also rejected.

Qatar’s Gulf critics accuse Al Jazeera of being a platform for extremists and an agent of interference in their affairs. The network has rejected the accusations and said it will maintain its editorial independence.


Gulf countries have insisted the demands were not negotiable.

The UAE ambassador to Russia has said Qatar could face fresh sanctions if it does not comply with the demands.

Gulf states could ask their trading partners to choose between working with them or with Doha, he said in a newspaper interview last week.

But UAE foreign affairs minister Anwar Gargash played down the chances of an escalation, saying “The alternative is not escalation but parting ways”, suggesting Qatar may be forced out of the six-member alliance.

The Western-backed body was formed in 1981 in the wake of Iran’s Islamic Revolution and the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.

Speaking in Washington last week, the Qatari foreign minister said the GCC was set up to guard against external threats.

“When the threat is coming from inside the GCC, there is a suspicion about the sustainability of the organization,” Sheikh Mohammed told reporters.

The crisis has hit travel, food imports and ratcheted up tensions in the Gulf and sown confusion among businesses, while pushing Qatar closer to Iran and Turkey.

But it has not hit energy exports from Qatar, which is the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and home to the region’s biggest U.S. military base.

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The rift opened days after U.S. President Donald Trump met with Arab leaders in Riyadh and called for unity against regional threats such as Iran and hardline Islamist militant groups.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Philip Pullella; editing by Sami Aboudi and Stephen Powell)