Frost & Sullivan bullish on regional LNG markets

Kuala Lumpur: The environmental benefits that liquefied natural gas (LNG) offers over oil and coal are encouraging the development of natural gas-fired power plants to meet the intensifying energy demand in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) economies. Along with the need for more floating regasification terminals — that reduce the time required to receive cargoes — this is expected to strengthen the prospects of engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractors in the region, according to new analysis from Frost & Sullivan.

The analysts found that the market earned revenues of $12.77bn in 2012 and estimates this to reach $24.85bn by 2017. The market will witness a spike in revenues this year — due to the large number of EPC contracts expected to be awarded — and then revert to its normal course from 2015 onwards. Opportunities for EPC contractors are spread across four segments: exploration and production, liquefaction, transportation, and regasification.

"The 2011 earthquake in Japan led to the shutting down of 54 nuclear power plants, resulting in a 12 percent increase in demand for LNG between 2011 and 2012 to meet the energy requirements of the country," said Frost & Sullivan energy & environment consultant Jieqiang Tan. "Demand for LNG is also expected to rise in China, from 250bn cu m per annum (bcma) in 2012 to 400 bcma in 2025, due to concerns surrounding energy security. China might even start importing LNG, in turn fuelling LNG production and exploration activities among APAC EPC contractors."

Further, the increasing use of LNG as a shipping fuel — LNG has very low sulphur content and is more regulation compliant than fuel oil and marine diesel oil — bodes well for APAC EPC contractors. East Asia will see a huge uptake of LNG projects as the Japanese and South Korean governments encourage competition between suppliers in order to have low-priced LNG to support reducing dependence on nuclear plants.

Overall, Southeast Asia dominates the market as countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia are highly active in LNG exploration and production activities. Australia too will emerge as a major participant in the APAC market with the construction of seven new liquefaction plants, which translates to 61m tonnes per annum of additional liquefaction capacity over the forecast period.

However, EPC contracts are expected to be hit by the drop in export to developed countries. While the boom in unconventional domestic gas sources is allowing the United States to cut down on LNG imports, Europe's import of LNG has dropped due to the sluggish growth in the economy. The resulting glut in gas supplies will reduce the need for LNG exploration in the APAC region and dent the opportunities for EPC contractors.

"To cater to existing customer demand, APAC EPC contract owners are beginning to use floating LNG as it presents a feasible option for monetising stranded offshore gas assets," noted Tan. "They are also building mini-LNG plants to provide gas to remote locations that are not connected by pipelines."  [27/03/14]

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