Australian LNG producers must evolve to compete in global market: Deloitte

The Australian LNG sector needs to evolve, and do so quickly, if producers are to become accomplished marketers and traders in the global market, according to a new Deloitte report.

Sales and marketing of LNG is evolving. Are you prepared? presents the results of a global survey of LNG sector participants, including producers, customers and traders. Respondents provided their views on the changing LNG market and future challenges and opportunities.

Their assessment of the sector provides a warning to Australian producers not to squander the opportunities presented by a rapidly changing LNG market.

“The Australian LNG sector has been in an enviable position for the past decade,” explained Alex Georgievski, Deloitte Specialist Advisory partner, Energy Trading Risk Management. “The market has been growing strongly. We’ve done well so far, but what happens next is crucial. To realise the full potential of the LNG market we have invested so much in, we need to ensure as a sector we are equipped to lead the selling, trading and marketing of LNG across the Asia-Pacific region.

“A tidal wave of LNG is about to come into the global market. The sector will, on average, see a new four million tonne LNG train come online every month for the next two years. But demand hasn’t kept pace with this increase in supply, and with the current price of LNG at an all-time low, we’re moving into a prolonged period of LNG oversupply.

“Australia’s LNG companies, traditionally producers and shippers, also need to become adept at selling and trading LNG. In the past, their businesses have been designed around exploration and production to deliver primarily against the long-term contracts underwriting those projects.

“As the needs and demands of new and different, as well as existing, customers are changing, it’s imperative that Australian producers adapt to the new model of selling and trading on spot and short-term terms.”

Key findings from the survey reveal:

  • Global LNG markets are maturing rapidly at the same time as many projects are transitioning from construction to production. Many LNG producers and customers may have less time to prepare, and more to do, than they realise;
  • There appears to be a substantial divide in energy trading risk maturity between companies that are established globally as traders in multi energy commodities and the regional Asia-Pacific LNG-only focused companies. This is relevant in light of the rapidly changing market and customer demands;
  • Organisations that have been marketing and trading commodities with more mature markets (including oil, gas and even iron ore) have existing marketing and trading functions, often with relatively mature trading and risk management frameworks developed over many years. They have also been able to leverage past lessons and existing risk management capability across their portfolios to extract flexibility and value. For companies without these established functions and experience to draw on, the rapid development of global LNG markets presents both significant threats and opportunities; and,
  • The evolution of LNG markets, and the increase in sales and marketing activity and complexity, will place high demands on existing and new operations, and their owners. The need to establish and drive maturity growth in their marketing and trading functions, with a risk management framework a crucial part of meeting these demands, will become increasingly important, if not critical.

New energy risk management framework maturity for a new age

Respondents to Deloitte’s survey also gave their views on the importance of energy trading risk management (ETRM) frameworks – the overarching risk governance framework by which organisations can develop the necessary parameters to market and trade LNG. Their responses revealed how participants in the global LNG sector fit within distinct phases of ETRM maturity and preparedness.

Mr Georgievski explained “Over time, companies tend to evolve through maturity stages characterised by a different level of ETRM preparedness. At each stage, risk management frameworks become more robust and comprehensive.”

The stages are:

  • Companies usually progress from an initial phase where they are primarily focussed on operational aspects to a more mature (but still fragmented) phase where risk management and trading activities become better defined and institutionalised. This usually coincides with the introduction of trading and risk policies and formalised risk measurement processes;
  • In a subsequent, and more integrated stage, companies further progress and develop a deeper understanding of the complex interlinks between portfolio risk management, liquidity aspects and credit rating;
  • Finally, for the more mature and strategic companies, ETRM frameworks become a source of competitive advantage and the risk infrastructure becomes central to strategic development rather than just a response to it. In the LNG sector, these are usually companies that have reached a high level of sophistication because of their previous experience with other commodities and their ability to leverage this experience into the developing LNG market.

“Our survey responses revealed Australian LNG businesses typically find themselves between the initial and fragmented phase of the ETRM maturity,” Mr Georgievski said.

“They need to establish a dedicated LNG ETRM framework as a priority given the rapid developments and the continuously evolving dynamics of the LNG markets.”

Jamie Hamilton, Deloitte Consulting partner, Oil and Gas, said: “Australia has seen tremendous LNG development in recent years and is now expected to become the largest global LNG producer by 2020. LNG sales and marketing activity is expected to increase dramatically across the Asia-Pacific region, placing high demands on existing and new operations, and their owners, to establish and mature their ETRM frameworks.

“These demands will come in response to customer desires for greater flexibility and diversification of supply across regions, contract size, contract tenure and pricing basis. They will also come from the new activities sales and marketing functions LNG businesses will undertake, including the marketing of increasingly uncontracted merchant LNG, managing potential delays in project ramp up or even early ramp up, managing production and outage risk and optimising portfolio LNG and shipping arbitrage in addition to re-trading of gas imbalances.”

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