LNG exports to China reach record

Australian exports of liquefied natural gas to China defied trade tensions between the two nations to reach a record in 2020-21, with China for the first time overtaking LNG as Australia’s largest customer.

Shipments to China jumped 7.3 per cent to 30.7 million tonnes in the year to June 30, despite strong competition, according to a monthly report from consultancy EnergyQuest, citing import statistics from major buyers.

The trade with China contributed to a record 72.4 million tonnes of LNG exports by Australia to North Asia in 2020-21. It was worth about $15.6 billion, out of a total $38.9 billion trade with the region, The regional total was down from $49.9 billion in 2019-20 due to a drop in oil prices, which most of the sales are priced against, the firm noted.

Fears mounted this year that the souring of relations between Australia and China was spilling over into LNG after unconfirmed reports that at least two of China’s smaller LNG importers had been told by authorities to avoid buying extra cargoes from Australia.

However the data from EnergyQuest supports commentary from Australia’s LNG exporters including Woodside Petroleum and Santos that appetite from China for cargoes remains strong. EnergyQuest CEO Graeme Bethune has consistently pointed to a lack of gas for processing into LNG at several Australian plants as the biggest threat to exports, rather than trade tensions with China or emissions reductions targeted by major Asian nations such as Japan.

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