Saudi Aramco signs US LNG deal with Sempra

Aramco, the Saudi state oil giant plans to become a major global gas player while the US market is undergoing a shale boom. (File/AP)
Updated 22 May 2019

Saudi Aramco signs US LNG deal with Sempra

  • Aramco has been developing its own gas resources
  • The proposed Port Arthur LNG Phase 1 project is expected to include two liquefaction trains

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco has entered into a 20-year agreement with US-based Sempra Energy to purchase liquefied natural gas (LNG) from its subsidiary Sempra LNG, the two companies said on Wednesday.
The Saudi state oil giant plans to become a major global gas player while the US market is undergoing a shale boom.
Aramco has been developing its own gas resources and eyeing gas assets in the United States, Russia, Australia and Africa.
The two companies are also finalizing a 25 percent equity investment in the phase 1 of Port Arthur LNG, they said in a joint statement.

 

 The sale-and-purchase agreement is for 5 million tons per annum (mtpa) of LNG from phase 1 of the Port Arthur LNG export project under development, the firms said.
The proposed Port Arthur LNG Phase 1 project is expected to include two liquefaction trains, up to three LNG storage tanks and associated facilities which should enable the export of about 11 mtpa on a long-term basis.
“Port Arthur LNG could be one of the largest LNG export projects in North America, with potential expansion capabilities of up to eight liquefaction trains or approximately 45 mtpa of capacity,” the statement said.
Aramco’s trading arm sold its first LNG cargo on the spot market in late March to an Indian buyer, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Aramco plans to boost its gas production to 23 billion standard cubic feet (scf) a day from about 14 billion scf now.

ANALYSIS

If converted to a sales and purchase agreement, (the Aramco-Sempra deal) will be one of the largest LNG deals ever signed and the largest deal signed since 2013. This is a signal of Aramco’s intent to become a global gas player and develop a broad LNG portfolio.

As the energy transition intensifies, we are seeing oil-focussed national oil companies following major international oil companies by diversifying their exposure away from oil and into gas and LNG.

Further moves into other major LNG provinces by Aramco are likely, with the company rumored to be interested in LNG-focussed acquisitions in Arctic Russia, Australia and other markets. It is unclear what the final destination of Saudi Aramco's LNG will be.

There continues to be a long-term expectation that, in time, Saudi Arabia will import LNG to be used for power generation. However, we expect that Saudi Aramco will use this volume to establish a global portfolio as it seeks to become a global gas player.

— Giles Farrer, Wood Mackenzie Research Director

FASTFACTS

23bn

Aramco's target gas production, in standard cubic feet, up from about 14 billion now.


Bolivia gears up for soaring lithium demand

Updated 6 min 59 sec ago

Bolivia gears up for soaring lithium demand

SALAR DE UYUNI, Bolivia: Over 3,600 meters above sea level on the blinding white plain of the world’s largest salt flat, landlocked Bolivia is dramatically ramping up production of lithium to cope with soaring global demand for the prized electric-battery metal.

Bolivia, among the poorest countries in South America, sits on one of the world’s largest lithium reserves, at the Salar de Uyuni — or Uyuni Salt Flats — ready to take full advantage in the coming age of the electric car.

But while it sits at the apex of South America’s “lithium triangle,” along with Chile and Argentina, Bolivia has not had the capacity to produce the metal on a commercial scale.

That will change when its Llipi plant comes online in 2020.

The factory, guarded by the army because of the metal’s value, will have an annual production capacity of 15,000 tons of lithium carbonate, project manager Marco Antonio Condoretty told AFP.

State company Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB), established by the government of President Evo Morales in 2008 to exploit lithium in the salt flats, aims to make Bolivia the fourth-largest producer by 2021.

Morales, a leftist and former coca farmer, is counting on lithium to serve as the economic engine that lifts his country out of poverty.

YLB teamed up last year with German company ACI Systems to help develop the Uyuni complex.

It’s part of a plan to form strategic partnerships that “bring their technology and guarantee outlets,” said Condoretty.

The joint venture will manufacture electric-vehicle batteries in Bolivia for the growing European market.

China’s Xinjiang TBEA Group came on board with YLB in another joint venture in February to help extract lithium from Bolivia’s two other salt flats, in Coipasa and Pastos Grandes.

Bolivia said earlier this year that Uyuni alone likely has at least 21 million metric tons of lithium, more than double previous estimates.

Until now, the Salar de Uyuni has been a major tourist attraction, and environmentalists have raised concerns about the landscape being irreparably altered by exploiting the lithium deposits underneath.

But Condoretty insisted that lithium exploitation would use “clean technologies” and affect only about 3 percent of the salt flat.

China is the world’s biggest consumer of lithium, with 63 percent of the market, according to Ingred Garces, professor of engineering at Chile’s Antofagasta University.

With its voracious appetite for lithium, the Asian giant has positioned itself at the center of the world’s main deposits of the metal.

By 2025, China will need 800,000 tons of lithium carbonate per year to meet the growing demand for electric vehicles.

China’s Tianqui Lithium Corp. took a 24 percent stake in Chilean producer SQM last December, placing itself inside the “Lithium Triangle,” which has 80 percent of the globe’s known deposits.

Worldwide production grew 23 percent in 2018 to more than 85,000 tons.