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The Impact of Low Oil and Gas Prices on Gas Markets: A Retrospective Look at 2014-15

About the Project

KAPSARC is analyzing the shifting dynamics of the global gas markets. Global gas markets have turned upside down during the past five years: North America has emerged as a large potential future LNG exporter while gas demand growth has been slowing down as natural gas gets squeezed between coal and renewables. While the coming years will witness the fastest LNG export capacity expansion ever seen, many questions are raised on the next generation of LNG supply, the impact of low oil and gas prices on supply and demand patterns and how pricing and contractual structure may be affected by both the arrival of U.S. LNG on global gas markets and the desire of Asian buyers for cheaper gas.

Key Points

In the past year, global gas prices have dropped significantly, albeit at unequal paces depending on the region. All else being equal, economists would suggest that this should have generated a positive demand response. However, “all else” was not equal. Prices of other commodities also declined while economic growth forecasts were downgraded.

Prices at benchmark points such as the U.K. National Balancing Point (NBP), U.S. Henry Hub (HH) and Japan/Korea Marker (JKM) slumped due to lower oil prices, liquefied natural gas (LNG) oversupply and unseasonal weather. Yet, the prices of natural gas in local currencies have increased in a number of developing countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, former Soviet Union (FSU) and Asia.

North America experienced demand growth while gas in Europe and Asia faced rising competition from cheaper coal, renewables and, in some instances, nuclear. Gains to European demand were mostly weather related while increases in Africa and Latin America were not significant.

For LNG, Europe became the market of last resort as Asian consumption declined. Moreover, an anticipated surge in LNG supply, brought on by several new projects, may lead to a confrontation with Russian or other pipeline gas suppliers to Europe. At the same time, Asian buyers are seeking concessions on pricing and flexibility in their long-term contracts.

Looking ahead, natural gas has to prove itself a credible and affordable alternative to coal, notably in Asia, if the world is to reach its climate change targets. The future of the gas industry will also depend on oil prices, evolution of Chinese energy demand and impact of COP21 on national energy policies. Current low prices mean there is likely to be a pause in final investment decisions (FIDs) on LNG projects in the coming years.

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