Demand for LNG to double by 2040, says Shell

The Anglo-Dutch major expects future demand to be driven by China and South Asian markets

The Arctic Discoverer liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker, operated by K Line LNG Shipping UK Ltd., sits moored at the Gate LNG terminal in the Port of Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Some U.S. cargoes have already reached southern European nations such as Spain, Portugal and Italy. Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg
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Long term demand for liquefied natural gas is expected to double to 700 million tonnes by 2040 as the world consumes more gas to offset polluting fuels such as coal, Anglo-Dutch major Shell said in an annual outlook.

Demand for LNG fuel continued to grow, registering an increase of 12.5 per cent to 359 million tonnes last year, the company said.

“The global LNG market continued to evolve in 2019 with demand increasing for LNG and natural gas in power and non-power sectors,” said Maarten Wetselaar, Shell's integrated gas, and new energies director.

“Record supply investments will meet people’s growing need for the most flexible and cleanest-burning fossil fuel," he added.

Gas, particularly the super-chilled LNG variety, is a popular transitional fuel in Asia, with China leading the demand. Beijing has turned away from polluting coal, which led to depleting air quality across its larger cities, to the cleaner gas. LNG emits between 45 to 55 per cent fewer greenhouse gases than coal and about one-tenth of the air pollutants.

The rising supply of atomic power in Japan and South Korea, as well as milder weather, resulted in only a modest rise in demand for LNG in Asia, compared with previous years. Japan, South Korea, and China are the world's three largest importers of LNG.

LNG imports in China, meanwhile, increased by 14 per cent last year, which Shell attributed to Beijing's efforts to continue to improve its air quality. South Asia also led growth with Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan importing 36 million tonnes, an increase of 19 per cent over the previous year.

India, which is also looking to turn away from coal, has plans to increase the share of gas in the energy mix to 15 per cent between 2020 and 2030 from 6.2 per cent at the end of 2019.

Shell acknowledged "weak market conditions", however, due to record levels of new supply as well as successive mild winters. Asian LNG futures prices have dropped below $3 per per million British thermal units (MMBtu) on the Nymex exchange, down from a high of almost $13 per MMBtu in September 2018. The decline has been exacerbated by the impact of the coronavirus on Chinese demand, it said.

The major, the world's largest trader in LNG, expects equilibrium to return to the market, driven by a combination of continued demand growth and new supply, in the mid-2020s.

Demand growth for gas in China, the world's top importer for the fuel, is predicted to halve this year because of a slowdown in activity induced by the spread of the coronavirus, Wood Mackenzie said earlier this month.

Chinese demand is set to grow at a reduced pace of between 6.2 per cent and 3.6 per cent in the best and worst-case outlook, respectively, it forecast.