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Oil price collapse hits LNG projects

Oil price collapse hits LNG projects
The fall-out from the collapse in the price of oil has reached into the LNG production business and resulted in the cancellation of one US LNG project.

Backers of Excelerate Energy have backed away from a proposed 8m tonnes-per-year project in Texas, due to come on stream in 2018. Other projects around the globe face uncertainty in the face of a decline in potential profit spreads and the inability to sign up long-term buyers to secure financing. In the US alone, only two of 13 proposed projects  reportedly have enough buyers to justify going forward.  

Now, after years of rosy demand forecasts, it has become a buyer’s market.  

Because most LNG projects are indexed to the price of oil, the pricing of LNG has taken a nosedive, and backers of projects are faced with making a call on whether the oil price collapse will be short-lived.  Some has already fled.  For instance, US based Apache recently sold its interests in Australian and Canadian LNG ventures in favor of  a return to its exploration roots.

What was once a projected lucrative arbitrage between the cost of natural gas in various global reserves and the market among Asian users like China, Japan and South Korea has been severely compressed.  Expectations soared when the price of gas at Henry Hub in the southeast US was $3.50 per MMBTU  while the spot price in Japan topped $18.  More recently the spot price has drifted beneath $10 per MMBTU, making a host of projects borderline at best and pressuring the cost of transportation.     

Producers lined up to be in production by 2018, but even before the oil decline, had encountered substantial delays in completion and soaring construction costs. Equally at risk are ship owners who have ordered vessels for delivery in the 2015-17 time period and held off securing charters because of forecasts of a shortage of specialty tonnage during that period.  

For the committed, however, the beat goes on.  BG Group, an industry leader, completed  the loading of its first cargo from its Queensland Curtis LNG project in Australia.  The project, which converts coal seam gas into LNG, is being developed to produce 8 million tons of LNG by 2016. The first load aboard the Methane Rita Andrea left Monday bound for Singapore, and a second vessel, the Methane Mickie Harper, was on its way to the Gladstone terminal for another load.