AUSTRALIA has officially become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas on an annualised basis, consultancy EnergyQuest has reported.

In sending overseas, an estimated record 77.5m tonnes of locally produced LNG in calendar year 2019, Australia topped former LNG export leader Qatar, expected to produce 75m tonnes in 2019.

The 2019 Australian LNG exports were more than twice those of the US, the world’s other fast-growing LNG producer.

The US Energy Information Administration predicts the US to have exported 34.3m tonnes in 2019.

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The Australian contribution came from across all three now fully established LNG hubs at Karratha in WA, Gladstone in central Queensland and Darwin in the Northern Territory – home to both the Ichthys and Darwin LNG projects.

Total Australian 2019 LNG shipments were up by 11.4% on 2018, mostly due to the growth in production from the Ichthys project, operated by Japan’s INPEX. 

WA production was steady on 2018 and Queensland production was up by 8.2% to 22.4m tonnes, with both APLNG and QCLNG operating close to full capacity.

EnergyQuest chief executive, Dr Graeme Bethune, said while Qatar’s final production figures for 2019 were still to be produced, Australian operational capacity of 88m tonnes now substantially exceeded the 77m tonnes of its Middle Eastern counterpart.

Dr Grame Bethune. Credit: EnergyQuest

“The record Australian performance for last year is 2.5Mt above the forecast of Qatar 2019 production of 75Mt, contained in the December 2019 Australian Government Resources and Energy Quarterly,” Dr Bethune said.

“On an annualised basis, we have previously achieved the global title in some individual months but 2019 is the first time Australia has topped global LNG export performance on a sustained annual basis,” he said.

“Australia’s 10 LNG projects have a combined capacity of 87.8Mt. However, with only 88% of total nameplate capacity used over 2019, there remains opportunity going forward to lift the current production milestone even higher.”

He said the Northern Territory proved “the glamour performer” for 2019, lifting sold output 153% to more than 10.5Mt from 4.15Mt the previous year.

WA continued to dominate the country’s LNG output at 57% of the national total, with Queensland garnering 29% of those exports.

The largest contributing project to Australian LNG exports was the Woodside-operated North West Shelf project in WA, followed by the two Chevron-operated WA projects, Gorgon and Wheatstone.

The largest % growth was the Northern Territory’s Ichthys LNG project, producing 7.529Mt in calendar 2019 – up 900% in a year from its commissioning volumes in 2018.

WA alone is now the world’s second largest LNG producer with Queensland sixth. According to EnergyQuest, the new data shows the emergence of the NT as now the third force in Australian LNG, producing 14% of Australia’s 2019 LNG exports.

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