SINGAPORE: Global liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade volumes hit a record last year, led by Asia, although growth was marginal as demand was shaken by coronavirus-induced restrictions, according to a report by the International Gas Union (IGU).
Global LNG trade increased to 356.1 million tonnes last year, up 1.4 million tonnes or about 0.4% from 2019, mainly due to increased exports from states United and Australia, the group said in its annual report released Thursday.
This figure is lower than the growth of 40.9 million tonnes, or 11.5%, in 2019, the IGU said. But, LNG was one of the few commodities whose trade increased in 2020, he said.
“The LNG trade in 2020 was heavily impacted by COVID-19, as markets, cities and producers around the world grappled with lockdowns and a host of other disruptions,” the IGU said, which includes more than 160 members and advocates the use of gas.
Australia overtook Qatar as the world’s largest LNG exporter, while the United States and Russia remained the third and fourth largest exporters, respectively, he added.
In 2020, the United States exported 11 million tonnes, or about 33%, more than in 2019 due to new production from Freeport LNG, Cameron LNG and Elba Island. However, exports from Trinidad and Tobago, Malaysia, Egypt, Algeria and Norway declined, IGU said.
For imports, Asia accounted for 70% of overall volumes with growth mainly driven by China, India, Taiwan and South Korea, Myanmar being a new importer.
“Although COVID-19 meant significant restrictions for some of these markets, they likely also took advantage of the period of falling prices in 2020 and bought additional volumes in the near term, and the expansion of regasification capacity in some cases, ”IGU said.
Prolonged shutdowns and the increased share of renewables in the energy mix reduced net imports into Europe by 4.3 million tonnes.
COVID-19 has also severely affected liquefaction development, with companies delaying final investment decisions on projects until 2021 and later due to the uncertain economic climate, with developers prioritizing deferral of capital spending, said declared the IGU.
For example, a total of 87.3 million tonnes per year (mtpa) of capacity is expected to be sanctioned in 2020, but a single 3.25 mtpa project in Mexico has been approved.
New regasification projects in China and India will continue to support gas demand while projects under construction in Ghana, El Salvador, Cyprus and Nicaragua and expected to come online over the next two years could see these countries make their mark. first LNG purchases, IGU said.