Australia overtakes Qatar as top global LNG exporter

Australia has overtaken Qatar to become the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world. Above, a Woodside Energy tanker at the Karratha loading terminal in Western Australia. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Australia overtakes Qatar as top global LNG exporter

  • Australia shipped 6.79 million tons of LNG in November while Qatar exported 6.2 million tons
  • Australia has invested heavily in a number of LNG export projects over the last few years

LONDON: Australia has become the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world, overtaking Qatar for the first time, according to data published on Monday.

Australia shipped 6.79 million tons of LNG in November while Qatar exported 6.2 million tons, according to Refinitiv Eikon, the financial data arm of Thomson Reuters.

While LNG exports from Australia increased by more than 15 percent from the previous month, Qatar’s exports dropped by 3 percent.

Australia has invested heavily in a number of LNG export projects over the last few years. Just last month, the first LNG shipment left the country’s new offshore Ichthys project on the northwestern coast of Australia.

Analysts expect Australia will look to maintain its lead ahead of the Qataris.

“Competition between Qatar and Australia for the share of global LNG market is set to intensify further,” said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy’s global gas analytics in London.

“Australia has boosted its market share in recent years by bringing online a slew of LNG export projects. This is in stark contrast with the situation in Qatar where the export capacity has remained around 77 million tons per annum,” he said.

Ehsan Khoman, head of regional research and strategy at MUFG, in Dubai, said Australia has an advantage over Qatar due to it being geographically closer to major gas importers.

“The lower transportation freight costs will remain the backbone of Australia comparative advantage as an exporter vis-à-vis Qatar, given the country’s closer proximity to the largest LNG importers in Asia, namely, Japan, China and South Korea,” he said.

Rising LNG exports from US will add to the global market competition, he said.

“Going forward, the LG space is likely to undergo a major transformation driven by new supplies coming from the US, with our expectation of a three-way tug of war between the US, Australia and Qatar to intensify in the medium term for global leadership among LNG exporters, notably for a larger share of the key market in Asia.”

The data follows Qatar’s announcement last week that it would leave the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) in early 2019 to focus on gas production.

Kumar said he expects Qatar to ramp up efforts to maintain its market position as competition grows from other exporters.

“Qatar has plans to vigorously defend its market share in the coming years as it is moving ahead with expanding the capacity of its Ras Laffan plant to around 110 million tons per annum by the end of 2025 or early 2026,” he said.


No need for more talks over draft budget: Lebanon finance minister

Updated 21 May 2019
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No need for more talks over draft budget: Lebanon finance minister

  • Lebanon’s proposed austerity budget may please international lenders but it could enrage sectors of society
  • Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens at 150 percent of GDP

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s finance minister said on Tuesday there was no need for more talks over the 2019 draft budget, seen as a vital test of the government’s will to reform, although the foreign minister signalled the debate may go on.
The cabinet says the budget will reduce the deficit to 7.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) from last year’s 11.2%. Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens at 150% of GDP.
“There is no longer need for too much talking or anything that calls for delay. I have presented all the numbers in their final form,” Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said.
But Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil suggested the debate may go on, telling reporters: “The budget is done when it’s done.”
While Lebanon has dragged its feet on reforms for years, its sectarian leaders appear more serious this time, warning of a catastrophe if there is no serious action. Their plans have triggered protests and strikes by state workers and army retirees worried about their pensions.
President Michel Aoun on Tuesday repeated his call for Lebanese to sacrifice “a little“: “(If) we want to hold onto all privileges without sacrifice, we will lose them all.”
“We import from abroad, we don’t produce anything ... So what we did was necessary and the citizens won’t realize its importance until after they feel its positive results soon,” Aoun said, noting Lebanon’s $80 billion debt mountain.
A draft of the budget seen by Reuters included a three-year freeze on all forms of hiring and a cap on bonus and overtime benefits.
It also includes a 2% levy on imports including refined oil products and excluding medicine and primary inputs for agriculture and industry, said Youssef Finianos, minister of public works and transport.
“DEVIL IN THE DETAIL“
Marwan Mikhael, head of research at Blominvest Bank, said investors would welcome the additional efforts in the latest draft to cut the deficit.
“There will be some who claim it is not good because they were hit by the decline in spending or increased taxes, but it should be well viewed by the international community,” he said.
Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, said: “The numbers will be of some comfort to investors, but the devil will be in the detail.”
“Even if the authorities do manage to rein in the deficit, it probably won’t be enough to stabilize the debt ratio and some form of restructuring looks increasingly likely over the next couple of years,” Tuvey said.
The government said in January it was committed to paying all maturing debt and interest payments on the predetermined dates.
Lebanon’s main expenses are a bloated public sector, interest payments on public debt and transfers to the loss-making power generator, for which a reform plan was approved in April. The state is riddled with corruption and waste.
Serious reforms should help Lebanon tap into some $11 billion of project financing pledged at a Paris donors’ conference last year.
Once approved by cabinet, the draft budget must be debated and passed by parliament. While no specific timetable is in place for those steps, Aoun has previously said he wants the budget approved by parliament by the end of May.
On Monday, veterans fearing cuts to their pensions and benefits burned tires outside the parliament building where the cabinet met. Police used water cannon to drive them back.