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The Global Petroleum Perspective.

Yergin is chairman of CERA and the author of The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. Stoppard is director of Global LNG at CERA and co-author of The New Wave: Global LNG Twenty-first Century. Their focus on natural gas and LNG presents an interesting perspective.

Natural gas in its gaseous form, they note, can be carried efficiently only in pipelines. But when oceans get in the way, pipelines do not work. When it is refrigerated down to temperatures of minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit, natural gas contracts into a liquid, which can be put in a tanker and transported thousands of miles across the sea. On delivery, this LNG is restored to its original state in a regasification terminal. Traditionally the whole process has been relatively costly. But it has proved to be very effective-methane is 600 times less voluminous as a liquid then as a gas and it allows large amounts of energy to be packed into a single cargo: one shipment holds the equivalent of 5% of the gas consumed in the US on an average day.

APS Energy Group President Pierre Shammas has been involved in pipeline gas and the LNG business since the early 1960's, when he was assisting an Italian executive in the planning of the world's first marine pipeline to carry Algerian gas through Tunisia to the island of Sicily. This was for a market that eventually helped speed up the transportation of Italy into an economic giant. Shammas also worked on Algeria's - the world's - first LNG project and, in the late 1960's, on a programme to export LNG from Iran to both the US and Japanese markets. But Iran's Kalinga's series of ventures collapsed in early 1979 with the fall of the Pahlavi monarchy and the advent of Khomeini's Islamic Revolution. It was only a generation later that the Iranian's of the Islamic Republic realised the importance of LNG-though they are still struggling to find credible takers and the money that will finance their export projects (see survey of Iran in Vol.60).

The first commercial LNG business began in 1964. It ran from Algeria to the UK and France. But in Europe that budding trade was soon supplanted by cheaper supplies by pipeline from the Netherlands, Algeria, and the British North Sea and then from Russia and Norway.

In the late 1970's, when some American experts predicted there could be a severe energy crisis in the US within less than three decades, Algeria began building huge LNG export plants for the US East Coast- where four regasification terminals were being constructed. But when these facilities came on stream in the early 1980's, there was plenty of cheap gas in the US and this priced both the new Algeria plants and the East Coast terminals out of the American market. Only a limited volume of Algerian LNG was shipped to Everett to supply Boston and surrounding areas. Some Algerian LNG was shipped to another US terminal on consignment and was priced on netback basis (see survey's of Algeria in Vols. 52,54,56,58 and 60).

It was not until late 1980's that new projects in Nigeria and Trinidad and later Qatar, brought more LNG to Europe. By then US demand for LNG had began to grow rapidly, with spot shipments reaching the East Coast from the distant sources, and Algeria had begun to revamp its huge liquefaction plants. The build up to the energy crisis of 2000 in California had begun.

By then, construction and operating costs through out the chain of LNG businesses - from the gas field down to the regasification terminal- had fallen considerably; and LNG tankers had become much cheaper. But the key factor to all that was the capacity of a limited number of oil multinationals in cutting costs and creating new markets. These have been led by Shell, with Exxon Mobil now running faster towards the top. A much bigger BP - having absorbed Amoco, Arco and other companies in the late 1990's - has joined Shell in the business brand LNG: selling the liquid anywhere, from whatever source and in small quantity on spot or term basis with the combination of technology and capital, on the other hand, new super-major's in the petroleum business have emerged to join the LNG elite on the supply side. Now, Total, ENI, ConocoPhilips, Chevron Texaco, BG and others are branching into the brand LNG and related gas-to-power(GTB) ventures in various markets; even power and gas utilities, including Enel of Italy, a Spanish counter part and Osaka Gas are moving into brand LNG, acquiring tankers for this business or building liquefaction plants at the source.

By late 2003,the spot market for LNG had become global and the oil majors had begun planning or building new gasification terminals in the US East, Gulf and West Coasts, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. Having become a global palyer in the GTP business, Shell is the world's leader in the field of gas -to- liquid's (GTL). It wants to retain this lead by spending billions of dollars in huge GTL ventures in Qatar and other parts of the world. GTL's consists mainly of pollution - free gasoil/ diesel which will become a premium fuel in the trasportation sector during the next decade. Qatar, thanks to mainly to ExxonMobil and Shell, wants to become world's biggest exporter of LNG and GTLs (see survey of Qatar in Vol.61).

LNG's real growth, however, has come from Asia. Japan wanted to reduce air pollution by shifting from coal oil to natural gas to generate electricity, but pipelines were not an option. So, in 1969,Japan began to import LNG from Alaska (which it still does today). Then, after the 1973 oil crisis, the Japanese government promoted LNG for energy security reasons: to reduce dependence on oil from the Middle East. Since the Japan has diversified its sources, importing LNG from various states, such as Abu Dhabi, Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Qatar. South Korea became the second major importer in Asia at the end of the 1980s, and Taiwan joined the Asian importers club in the 1990s.

Faced with an ever-rising demand for electricity, the huge economies of china and India are set to join the ranks of LNG importers in the next few years. They are likely to become the world's biggest GTL importers in the next decade.

LNG projects in Asia and Europe developed according to a very particular set of unwritten rules - what might be called " LNG paradigm". The paradigm aimed to ensure that a logistic, financial, and commercial chain linked suppliers to consumers through contracts that governed every step of the process, from extraction and liquefaction to shipping, delivery, and regasification. The key to all that was the take-or-pay (ToP) close in 20/25-year LNG supply contracts.

Specific reserves were earmarked and developed for specific liquefaction facilities, the output of which was delivered by specified tankers to specific markets. All the elements of the projects were laboriously worked out and settled before any serious dollars were spent. Gas prices to that of oil, keeping them competitive and insulating them from subsequent decisions by buyers and sellers. But on both sides the number of players and leaders was limited to oil majors for the sellers and domestic utilities for the buyers. The latter were mostly monopolies, whether for gas or for GTP.

The LNG paradigm developed for two reasons: the huge capital costs of LNG projects and the inevitable interdependence of gas buyers and gas sellers. There was no point in developing reserves if the market was not there and vice versa. Supply and demand, according to the paradigm, needed to be developed in tandem. The costs of LNG projects - from $3 bn to $10 bn for a single venture - meant that investors wanted to lock in future sales and revenue streams, protecting themselves from unanticipated or unpredictable capacity and transmission infrastructure. Member states would have to cut overall energy use by 1% every year between 2006 and 2012, while public-sector energy use would have to be reduced by 1.5% per annum.

Failure to comply with targets set by national regulators could lead to financial penalties. But the energy package requires approval by the European parliament and EU member states.

The proposals reflect long-standing EU commission concerns about the security of Europe's energy supply. Although some EU member states have recently seen a sharp fall in energy prices as a result of oversupply, countries such as Italy are forced to import a significant share of power from neighbouring states.

Brussels also fears that a large number of power stations will be shut down in the near future, leading to a more general shortage of generation capacity. Experts have repeatedly identified weaknesses in Europe's transmission infrastructure, with particular problems in cross-border networks.

The power failure in September that left almost all Italy's 57 million inhabitants without electricity was largely blamed on the inadequacy of the cross-border power links to Switzerland.

Palacio, however, has not gone far enough in the measures it has proposed. Despite an attempt to please environmental groups by stressing the importance of energy saving and renewable energies, the package won little applause from the green lobby.

Mark Johnston, a campaigner for friends of the Earth Europe, said: "palacio is living in the past. She has learnt little from progressive policies being pursued elsewhere. If these plans go through, it will be a victory for the big, expensive and ugly over the small, efficient and beautiful".

Energy companies are equally unenthusiastic about Palacio's plan. In a statement released before the Dec. 10 announcement, the Union of the electricity Industry (Eurelectric) warned against " overregulation" and " undue market interference".
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Publication:APS Review Gas Market Trends
Date:Dec 22, 2003
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