The outlook for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports has something to disappoint nearly everyone, according to analysts at Raymond James & Associates Inc.
Domestic natural gas prices are down, which should make U.S. gas attractive. But prices for LNG in Europe and Asia are "massively cheaper," Raymond James said. That's thanks to oil-linked prices in Asia, mainly, but also in Europe, too, they said.
Demand in Asian countries has not materialized to the extent many thought it would. Japan's economy has been "slow," and the coal-to-gas switch-over in China for environmental reasons also has been slow.
"If there were too many LNG [export] wannabes a year ago, we would argue that is doubly true today," Raymond James said. The firm's analysts are projecting exports of 7-9 Bcf/d from the United States by the end of the decade, with most of that coming in the out years of the period.
That's counting on six projects in the Lower 48 coming online by the end of the decade: Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Sabine Pass (due online around the end of this year or early next), Dominion's Cove Point, Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Elba Island, Cheniere's Corpus Christi, TX, facility, Freeport LNG, and Sempra Energy's Cameron LNG. All but Elba Island are under construction, and that's important. Raymond James analysts don't hold out much hope for LNG latecomers, particularly greenfield projects whose economics don't benefit from existing site facilities.
Not only do the six projects have to come online, they also have to reach targeted liquefaction and export rates, including the portions of their capacities that are still lacking contracts. Even if that happens, it won't give domestic natural gas producers much to smile about, Raymond James said.
"...[B]arely half of the potential U.S. gas glut will be alleviated by LNG exports in 2019..." they said. "...[W]e believe that a long-term Henry Hub average of $2.75/Mcf will enable supply growth that is sufficient to meet any realistic increase in domestic gas demand as well as supply all of the envisioned LNG export projects."