New York - U.S. exporters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) head into 2020 after a record year that saw exports soar by more than 60%, but growing concerns about weakened demand and heavy competition could act as headwinds in the coming year.
Four new liquefaction trains - the common term for a shipping facility - entered service this year in the United States. The U.S. is on track to become the biggest global LNG exporter by 2024.
LNG is seen as an alternative for Asian countries that have relied on coal-fired power plants. LNG exports have surged in recent years out of Qatar, Australia, and the United States, the three biggest exporters of the super-cooled fuel.
The fickle nature of the market was apparent early this year, when a warm winter in Asia cut heating demand and prompted Asian importers to divert cargoes to Europe.
“It’s likely that LNG prices will stay somewhat depressed in 2020, unless we get a cold winter across the pond and in the Far East,” said James Mick, managing director and energy portfolio manager at energy investment manager Tortoise.
Prices in Europe TRNLTTFMc1 and Asia JKMc1 are down by around 40% so far in 2019 to their lowest in years. Analysts at Morgan Stanley and Energy Aspects say some U.S. LNG export terminals could shut temporarily in 2020 due to a lack of demand. Lower prices and weak demand could endanger the myriad of LNG projects still in development.