*The world’s top three LNG buyers, Japan, China and Korea collectively imported 74.1mn tons in the first five months of 2019, down 2% year-on-year. This is despite prices remaining depressed, with recent spot market trade at around $5/mn BTU, less than half typical values in the second half of 2018. Recent and upcoming liquefaction plant start-ups in Australia and the US are set to keep prices under pressure for the foreseeable future. Shell’s 3.6mn t/y Prelude FLNG off Australia finally shipped its first cargo on 10 June, just two weeks after the start-up of another project, Cameron LNG in the US.
*Of the ‘big three’ buyers, China is the most price sensitive versus the mature markets of Japan and Korea. China saw import volumes rise 20% year-on-year to 24.0mn tons for the first five months of 2019. Monthly Chinese import volumes only overtook those of South Korea in the second half of 2017. However it is not inconceivable that monthly takings could overtake number one Japan at some stage later this year: they came close in a pre-winter buying spurt last November, and lagged Japanese takings by just over 1mn tons for both April and May. Projections in the IEA’s latest ‘Gas 2019’ report, which only have China overtaking Japan in 2024, look conservative. (CONTINUED - 520 WORDS)