According to Shell’s annual LNG Outlook, global LNG demand grew by 29 million t, to 293 million t in 2017. Such strong growth in demand is consistent with Shell’s first LNG Outlook, published in 2017. Based on current demand projections, Shell sees potential for a supply shortage developing in mid-2020s, unless new LNG production project commitments are made soon.
LNG has played an increasing role in the global energy system over the last few decades. Since 2000, the number of countries importing LNG has quadrupled and the number of countries supplying it has almost doubled. LNG trade increased from 100 million t in 2000 to nearly 300 million t in 2017 – enough gas to generate power for approximately 575 million homes.
Japan remained the world’s largest LNG importer in 2017, while China moved into second place, replacing South Korea. Total demand for LNG in China reached 38 million t due to continued economic growth and policies to reduce local air pollution through coal-to-gas switching.
“We are still seeing significant demand from traditional importers in Asia and Europe, but we are also seeing LNG provide flexible, reliable and cleaner energy supply for other countries around the world,” said Maarten Wetselaar, Integrated Gas and New Energies Director at Shell. “In Asia alone, demand rose by 17 million t. That’s nearly as much as Indonesia, the world’s fifth-largest LNG exporter, produced in 2017.”
LNG buyers continued to sign shorter and smaller contracts. In 2017, the number of LNG spot cargoes sold reached 1100 for the first time. This growth mostly came from new supply from Australia and the US.
The mismatch in requirements between buyers and suppliers is growing. Most suppliers still seek long-term LNG sales to secure financing. But LNG buyers increasingly want shorter, smaller and more flexible contracts so they can better compete in their own downstream power and gas markets. This mismatch needs to be resolved to enable LNG project developers to make final investment decisions to ensure there is enough future supply of this cleaner-burning fuel for the world economy.
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