Traders said Chinese buyers were already seeking alternatives. “The Chinese are already indicating that they would prefer not to take US cargoes for any new spot deals,” said a Singapore-based energy trader who deals with Chinese LNG importers. He declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak publicly about commercial operations. The main beneficiaries of this shift are producers in the Asia/Pacific region, who have been quick to snatch market share from the United States since the trade disputes broke out in June. “Short-term, alternative volumes could come from many other projects including the more proximate Australian, Papua New Guinean (PNG) and Qatari projects which have some flexible volumes,” said Saul Kavonic, director of Asia/Pacific Markets and head of energy research for Australia at Credit Suisse.
Shipping data shows that US LNG sales to China have already slumped from almost 400,000 tonnes in May to just 130,000 tonnes in July, while supplies from Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia and Papua New Guinea have increased. US LNG exports only started in 2015, and sales to China were a booming business opportunity for the American natural gas industry. They were also a convenient tool to reduce the American trade deficit with China. Analysts said US LNG sellers such as Cheniere would still be able to find a home for its supplies, including in Europe.
Still, they warned that the spat with China could stall planned future US export projects that were hoping to sell into China. “While Chinese tariffs will not halt the United States’s rise to be among the world’s top-3 largest LNG exporters, they could slow or stop the progress of some projects… reducing the overall weighting of US LNG in the global LNG mix over the next decade,” said Credit Suisse’s Kavonic.
Sources and photo-credits: Reuters, Gulf Times