Oil and Gas News

Australia overtakes Qatar as top LNG exporter for 2019

Australia has officially become the world’s largest annual exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), with the Woodside-operated North West Shelf project and two Chevron-operated sites, all in Western Australia, making the largest contributions.

With an estimated 77.514 million tonnes (Mt) of locally produced LNG in 2019, Australia edged out Qatar, which is expected to register an estimated 75Mt for the year.

Australia’s 2019 total is more than double that of the United States, the world’s other fast-growing LNG producer.

The Australian contribution came from across all three now fully-established LNG hubs at Karratha in Western Australia, Gladstone in central Queensland and Darwin in the Northern Territory – home of both the Ichthys and Darwin LNG projects.

Australia’s 2019 LNG shipments increased by 11.4 per cent on 2018, primarily due to the growth in production at Ichthys, operated by Japan’s INPEX.

Western Australian production was steady on 2018 and Queensland production was up 8.2 per cent to 22.4Mt, with both APLNG and QCLNG operating at close to full capacity.

The figures and new world crown are confirmed in analysis of ship tracking data by independent Australian energy consultancy, EnergyQuest.

Graeme Bethune, chief executive of EnergyQuest, said that while Qatar’s final production figures for 2019 were yet to be released, Australian operational capacity of 88Mt now substantially exceeded the 77Mt of its Middle Eastern rival.

“The record Australian performance for last year is 2.5Mt above the forecast of Qatar 2019 production of 75Mt, contained in the December 2019 Australian Government Resources and Energy Quarterly,” Bethune said.

“On an annualised basis, we have previously achieved the global title in some individual months but 2019 is the first time Australia has topped global LNG export performance on a sustained annual basis.

“Australia’s 10 LNG projects have a combined capacity of 87.8Mt. However, with only 88 per cent of total nameplate capacity used over 2019, there remains opportunity going forward to lift the current production milestone even higher.”

On a percentage basis, the Northern Territory proved the glamour performer for 2019, lifting sold output 153 per cent to more than 10.5Mt from 4.15Mt the previous year.

Western Australia continued to dominate the country’s LNG output at 57 per cent of the national total, with Queensland garnering 29 per cent of those exports.

The largest contributing project to Australian LNG exports was the Woodside-operated North West Shelf project in WA, followed by the two Chevron-operated WA projects, Gorgon and Wheatstone.

The largest per cent growth was the Northern Territory’s Ichthys LNG project, producing 7.53Mt in calendar 2019 – up 900 per cent in a year from its commissioning volumes in 2018.

Western Australia alone is now the world’s second largest LNG producer, with Queensland ranking a significant sixth.

The data underpins the emergence of the Northern Territory as Australia’s third LNG force, producing 14 per cent of the country’s 2019 LNG exports.