Total SA said year/year liquefied natural gas (LNG) sales increased by 20% in the third quarter, driven largely by new and existing terminals on the Gulf Coast, Australia and Russia. 

Quarterly LNG sales were 7.4 million metric tons (mmt), compared with 6.2 mmt in the year-ago period. One of the world’s largest LNG players, the French oil major has an integrated portfolio that includes liquefaction capacity, marketing, trading, shipping and downstream infrastructure.

The increase, mainly resulted from the start-up of successive trains at Yamal LNG in Russia (20% stake) and the Ichthys project in Australia (30% stakes). The start-up of the first train at Sempra Energy’s Cameron LNG in Hackberry, LA, during the third quarter also lifted sales; Total has a 16.6% interest in the terminal.

The market has been more volatile this year, however, with Total’s LNG sales declining sequentially by 13%. Third quarter volumes were also down slightly from 1Q2019 levels of 7.7 mmt.

Total produced 3.04 million boe/d during the quarter in its global oil and gas portfolio, up 8% from the year-ago period. Most of the growth was “essentially linked” to the ramp-up at Yamal and Ichthys, management said.

The company also finalized its acquisition from Occidental Petroleum Corp. of Anadarko Petroleum Corp.’s stake in Mozambique LNG. The Arctic LNG 2 project in Russia, in which Total holds a 10% stake, was also sanctioned in September.

As Total has continued to grow its gas business, the company expanded a partnership with conglomerate Adani to supply and market gas in India’s market, and it signed agreements in the third quarter with the West African country of Benin to develop an LNG market.

Total’s third quarter cash flow was flat year/year at $7.4 billion. Year-to-date, cash flow from the integrated gas, renewables and power segment increased by nearly $1 billion year/year driven by LNG production growth of 55%.  

Third quarter net income was $2.8 billion ($1.05/share), compared with about $4 billion ($1.48) in the year-ago period.

The decline in profits came as the average Brent crude price slid 18% year/year to $62.00/bbl. Natural gas prices fell by about 55% in Europe and Asia over the same time. Gas prices in Asia have continued to decline as the market is steeped in spot LNG cargoes and Europe is also saturated. LNG inventories in Europe are at roughly 81% of capacity, a record high for data dating back to 2011, according to Bloomberg.

Europe is saturated with natural gas, and balances are likely to remain oversupplied. In a recent note, Goldman Sachs analysts said supply and demand estimates for the region show a storage level for the end of October 2020 “that would not only surpass” this year’s 51.9 billion cubic meters (bcm), but “likely reach the 54.3 bcm estimated capacity level” for Northwest Europe.

Total and BP plc also inked supply agreements with Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC) on Tuesday, essentially booking the majority of ADNOC LNG production through 1Q2022. The facility off the coast of Abu Dhabi produces about 6 million metric tons/year. “The two-year supply agreement contributes to the growth and flexibility of Total’s LNG portfolio,” said Total’s Laurent Chevalier, vice president of Middle East, gas, renewables and power.

The deal is yet another in a series of similar transactions in recent years as the company has positioned itself as a global leader in LNG, including a strong role in export growth along the Gulf Coast. The company has taken stakes in Cameron LNG through its acquisition of Engie SA’s portfolio of upstream LNG assets last year. It’s also invested in Tellurian Inc., developer of the massive Driftwood LNG export project in Louisiana.