Major liquefied natural gas trading countries and key drivers



Room to grow

The LNG (liquefied natural gas) trade has much room to grow. GasLog Ltd. (GLOG), for example, has compared LNG shipping industry to the crude tankers that hauled unrefined oil in the 1950s. In 2012, ~13% of the world’s natural gas production was transported on LNG carriers, while ~45% of crude oil was transported via tankers. So who are the major buyers and sellers?

Natural Gas Trade Routes

According to the IGU (International Gas Union), Qatar exported 77.2 MT (million metric tonnes) of natural gas in 2013—almost a third of the world’s exports. Since 2006, exports of LNG from the Middle East (Qatar—a small country in Western Asia surrounded by the Persian Gulf) have contributed most to growth in the LNG trade. Other major exporters of LNG included Malaysia (24.7 million tonnes), Australia (22.2 million tonnes), Indonesia (17.0 million tonnes), Nigeria (16.9 million tonnes), and Trinidad (14.6 million tonnes).

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In terms of imports, Japan holds the crown, having imported 87.8 million tonnes of natural gas from countries such as Qatar, Malaysia, Russia, Nigeria, and Australia. Following Japan are South Korea (40.9 million tonnes), China (18.6 million tonnes), and India (12.9 million tonnes). Aside from Asia-Pacific countries, Europe is the second most important destination for LNG, making up 13% of total imports in 2013, with the United Kingdom and Spain as the main importers.

Key LNG trade drivers

The LNG trade and carrier demand are driven by LNG supply and demand. LNG demand is primarily driven by importers’ regasification capacity, natural gas (electricity) consumption, natural gas production, pipeline natural trade, natural gas plant capacity, industrial activity, the price of LNG relative to alternative fuels such as coal, and energy policies. LNG supply, on the other hand, is driven by exporters’ liquefaction capacity, natural gas production, and domestic natural gas consumption. Government policies such as carbon emissions and production approvals will affect both LNG demand and supply.


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