Global Floating Liquefied Natural Gas Market
Natural gas has always been considered one of the most efficient fossil fuels and has witnessed rising demand in the last few decades. Natural gas extraction and production (E&P) infrastructure has also expanded accordingly and natural gas now counts as one of the most important types of fuel used around the world. However, despite significant expansion of offshore petroleum E&P undertakings, offshore natural gas E&P has traditionally consisted of transporting LNG in the gaseous form to onshore facilities, where it could be liquefied and supplied to further end users.
While this system has worked well so far, the construction costs of onshore liquefaction facilities are rising, leading to a need for more cost-effective solutions. This has given rise to the idea of constructing offshore LNG liquefaction facilities. This saves costs not only by eliminating the need for onshore liquefaction, but also by allowing petroleum companies to extract isolated reserves of natural gas. While transporting gaseous LNG from such isolated patches to onshore facilities can be prohibitively expensive, utilizing floating liquefaction and storage will allow companies to make the most of offshore LNG reserves.
The high amount of savings that can be gained from this system and widespread support in the oil and gas industry are the major drivers expected to propel the global liquefied natural gas market in the coming years.
Global Floating Liquefied Natural Gas Market: Drivers and Restraints
The dramatic fall in oil prices in 2014 and 2015 has had a severe impact on the dynamics of the oil and gas industry. The price reduction has resulted in onshore natural gas liquefaction facilities becoming too expensive for most oil and gas players. This has had a positive effect on R&D into innovating floating natural gas liquefaction units.
The instability in the oil and gas market at present has also helped the floating liquefied natural gas market, since oil and gas players have become more cautious about investing in expensive onshore facilities. This has allowed floating liquefaction of natural gas to emerge as a potential solution, since floating natural gas liquefaction units can comfortably outperform onshore facilities, leading to a higher profit margin.
Since liquefied natural gas takes up less space than gaseous natural gas, it is drastically more economical for oil and gas companies to utilize offshore natural gas liquefaction units rather than transport gaseous natural gas in storage vessels.
The time required to construct an onshore natural gas liquefaction facility is also quite high. This has also led to rising acknowledgement of the benefits of using floating liquefaction vessels, which can be built quicker and do not require any long-term commitment.
Global Floating Liquefied Natural Gas Market: Competitive Dynamics
As of 2015, there were no floating liquefaction vessels in use in the global natural gas industry. Floating regasification vessels, which allow for efficient transport of LNG, are currently the dominant type of vessel in the offshore natural gas E&P scenario. Despite the expected rise of floating liquefaction vessels, floating regasification vessels will remain in production, since they are relatively cheap to build and can be bought or leased for a particular duration according to the demand. Among floating regasification vessels, Höegh LNG, Excelerate Energy, and Golar LNG have emerged as major players in the global market.
As for floating natural gas liquefaction vessels, there are three major projects expected to become operational in the coming months and years. The oil-rich waters off the northern coast of Colombia will see Exmar and Pacific Rubiales establish a floating natural gas liquefaction facility with a capacity of 0.5 MMTPA. PETRONAS is expected to produce 1-2 MMTPA liquefied natural gas from its floating liquefied natural gas unit in Malaysia, while Shell is expected to enter the floating liquefied natural gas market with its 3-MMTPA unit in West Australia, expected to become operational by 2017.
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