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The top five oil and gas trends for 2018

This year will be the year of the oil and gas revival, as prices lift performance and major projects come online.

While Australia is increasing its focus on securing domestic gas supply, it is taking a greater role globally and evolving the industry.

Wood Mackenzie Australasia oil and gas leader Saul Kavonic has outlined the five trends that will mark LNG growth in 2018.

Australia leads LNG

Australia has been ramping up its LNG projects for a number of years, and 2018 will see it finally take the world’s number one spot from Qatar.

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has forecast LNG exports to reach $35 billion in value 2018.

This will be driven by Chevron’s second Wheatstone LNG train coming online in the second quarter of the year, Inpex’s Ichthys project ramping up production, and Shell’s floating LNG ship Prelude coming into full operation.

The International Energy Agency forecast Australia will become the world’s largest gas supplier in the world in the coming years. It predicted that nearly 70 per cent of all gas produced in Australia would leave the nation’s shores. This is a major increase from the current share of production, which currently sits below half.

Australia will also become the world’s largest coal seam gas producer, accounting for nearly half of international output from the 2020s onward.

LNG price review

A contract renewal cliff is coming, and the price gap between existing legacy contracts and new agreements is beginning to widen.

Asia has around 20 million tonnes of contracted LNG under price review, and with the ability of utilities to pass costs on to the consumer diminishing, this review activity is only likely to increase.

Gas buyers are pushing back against the market, seeing themselves as over-contracted and existing agreements as inflexible.

“Australian projects are particularly exposed, with many project sale and purchase agreements signed at linkages to oil above 14 per cent, compared to recent contracts signed at around 11 per cent,” Mr Kavonic said.

S&P Global Platts forecast volatility ahead for Australia’s LNG sectorand a shift to short-term flexible models.

“The traditional ways of doing business, based on destination-restricted, oil-indexed long-term contracts, are disappearing, making room for enhanced flexibility and interconnectivity,”S&P Global Platts LNG analyst Abache Abreu told Fairfax Media.

Government pressure remains

As energy prices continue to experience volatility the spotlight will remain on the gas industry and its ability to meet domestic demand.

Last year saw the Turnbull government take almost unprecedented action in threatening private gas companies with legislation to keep Australian gas from being exported and this governmental pressure will likely remain, Mr Kavonic believes.

“The industry is unlikely to see any reprieve from populist energy policy in 2018,” he said.

“Three policy themes will manifest: ongoing uncertainty, increased regulatory control, and more government subsidies.”

A year of M&A

Late last year saw a flurry of mergers, acquisitions and divestments, as AWE and Lattice Energy were both acquired, and Santos became a major takeover target.

Looking globally, Oil Search expanded beyond its historical Papua New Guinean tropical playing fields into the Arctic north, acquiring a range of Alaskan assets.

This movement will continue.

“Anyone with a proven or plausible gas project supplying into the tight east coast markets will also become attractive, putting Senex, Cooper, and Central Petroleum on the radar,” Mr Kavonic said.

Domestic gas relaxes

The threat of the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism changed industry focus from exporting to ensuring domestic supply, helping to reduce fears of possible domestic gas shortfalls.

However, the market will likely to move short term, more volatile contracts, providing less security and access to cheaper legacy gas supply.

However, Mr Kavonic warns that export control issues are likely to resurface towards the end of 2018.

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