US to rival Russia in European LNG supply

With the boom in shale gas production in the US, the country is anticipated to challenge Russia's LNG monopoly in Europe by the end of the decade.

Europe is becoming increasingly reliant on imports as its domestic gas fields mature, and it will require additional sources of LNG supply.

New LNG projects in the US, Australia, Russia, East Africa and Canada could double global LNG production to 600 million tons per year from 2018.

Two major projects slated to come onstream this year are ExxonMobil's Papau New Guinea LNG project and BG Group's Queensland Curtis LNG project in Australia.

The majority of new Australian and East African LNG projects are geared to meet Asian demand, while much of the new US LNG output is slated for export to Europe after 2015.

Presently, there are more than a dozen proposed LNG export projects at various stages of approval in the US. Russia, the dominant LNG supplier to Europe, charges high prices for its LNG, offering US exporters an opportunity to seize market share through cut-rate agreements.

According to ConocoPhillips' global LNG marketing manager, Birger Balteskard, "There is a potential large gap between demand and supply into Europe. We think, by 2025, that will be as much as 25 [billion cubic feet per day], which is significant."

However, changing Asian energy needs could have a significant impact on this scenario.

If China's LNG demand rises faster than anticipated, and/or if Japan continues to uphold its nuclear energy restrictions, then the availability of gas exports to Europe could be limited.

"Assuming the East Africa, US and Australia [LNG scenarios] do happen the way we think, the main thing to look at is what is going on in China. How much energy will it be able to absorb?" Mr. Balteskard said.

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