The pecking order of liquefied natural gas (LNG) suppliers to Japan, the world’s largest importer of LNG, has shifted. For the first time, Australia has surpassed Qatar to take the No. 1 slot, according to EnergyQuest, a consultancy based in Australia.

“The milestone — recorded in the 2012 calendar year — coincides with Australia achieving both record LNG export volumes and LNG export revenue during the same period,” the firm said in a report. Australia’s “…market share of LNG trade to Japan was greater than that of the previous largest suppliers: Qatar and Malaysia.”

Australia exported 15.9 million tonnes (mt) of LNG to Japan last year, overtaking Qatar, which exported 15.7 mt, and Malaysia, which exported 14.6 mt to Japan, the firm said. The start-up of the Pluto LNG project in 2012 (see Daily GPI, March 23, 2012) propelled Australia into top position among LNG exporters to Japan.

“Australia has captured the biggest share of a growing market for LNG,” Graeme Bethune, Energy Quest chief executive said Thursday.

“Japanese LNG imports were a record 87.3 mt in 2012, 11% higher than the previous year, and 18.2% of that LNG came from Australia. One of the major reasons for the increase in Japanese LNG demand is the shut-down of nuclear reactors in that country following the devastating earthquake in March 2011.”

Last June, Royal Dutch Shell plc’s Marvin Odum, director of the company’s America’s upstream business, said U.S. LNG would meet with stiff competition to serve Asian demand. “….[E]even as long-term global demand for energy will skyrocket, we’re seeing intense competition and a short window of opportunity now in key energy markets,” he said (see Daily GPI, June 12, 2012).

Japan’s imports from Australia are set to keep increasing as the Gorgon LNG (see Daily GPI, Dec. 12, 2011), Queensland Curtis LNG, Australia Pacific LNG, Wheatstone LNG (see Daily GPI, Sept. 27, 2011), Prelude FLNG (see Daily GPI, May 23, 2011) and Ichthys LNG projects come into production over the next five years. The INPEX Corp. Ichthys project, offshore of north-west Australia, alone is expected to supply about 10% of Japan’s LNG needs when it comes into production in 2017, Bethune said.

Overall, Australian LNG exports last year reached a record 21.8 mt, up 11% from 2011, and the value of LNG exports reached A$13.8 billion, an increase of 25% on the previous year. LNG is now one of the country’s export products.

Australian LNG exports are expected to increase this year on the strength of a full year of production from Pluto and then until 2017 as other new projects come online, Bethune said.

©Copyright 2013Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.