Korea mounts assault on LNG contracts

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Australia’s North Asian customers seem quite comfortable with the idea that LNG contracts need to be broken. From LNGWorldNews:

Changes in the pricing structure of natural gas and LNG are needed if Asia is to take full advantage of the “golden age of gas,” senior Korean officials told the Gastech 2014 VIP programme that was held a day ahead of the opening of Gastech 2014, the world’s leading gas and LNG conference and exhibition, in Seoul on 24 March.

The natural gas revolution is “being hampered and threatened by the current structural inflexibility of the global natural gas market,” Han Jin-hyun, vice-minister of Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, told the guests at the VIP session, which included several senior government ministers from gas-supplying countries.

“The inflexible contract conditions and price-decisions” have created an Asian price premium “that have prevented Northeast Asia from enjoying the full benefits of new developments in the gas market,” Han said.

“The gas industry revolution could become an empty slogan, which is not desirable for any of us, if such restrictions keep any region from reaching its full for potential for growth,” Han added. Korea is the world’s second largest importer of LNG.

Han called for changing the oil indexation price mechanism, “which is still being used even though there is no longer a connection between oil and gas prices.” In addition, the destination clause in supply contracts should be re-examined since it “is keeping LNG from being efficiently traded on the market.”

Jang Seok-hye, President and CEO of the Korean Gas Corporation, also raised the issue of the Asian gas premium in his address to the VIP delegates, saying that it “has been there since natural gas trading began in Asia. There are times that the old ways don’t work anymore. We need to get rid of the old and find new and better alternatives.”

Jang also called for improvements in contract in gas project investment and financing “through the creation of better commercial methods.

Cho Tae-youl, vice minister of the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs, reminded the VIP delegates that the Asian natural gas market is the fastest-growing gas market worldwide, and is expected to become the second-largest by 2015. “The Asian market accounts for nearly two-thirds of the global LNG demand. He said that with shale gas emerging as a game changer and suppliers diversifying, the paradigm shifts in the global gas industry will be driven by Asian market demand. Asian countries should cooperate with each other in order to decrease the gas premium within the region,” he added.

The Koreans and Japanese appear to be tacitly collaborating on this push. It would probably be unwise to push them to co-operate openly given that may give rise to a more enduring and institutionalised structure of customer price-making.

David Llewellyn-Smith

David Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the founding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal.

He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.

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Comments

  1. Purchaser cartel formation and price signalling in action. A purchaser talking their book.

    I’m sure our suppliers can match them in price signalling and cartel formation!

    How exposed are the koreans and japanese to the loans to and investments in existing projects?