For months, banks including Citigroup Inc. have talked about a massive oversupply in the global market for liquefied natural gas. The head of natural gas at Royal Dutch Shell Plc, one of the world’s biggest producers of the fuel, would beg to differ.
“There isn’t really yet the kind of oversupply that people talk about,” Maarten Wetselaar, Shell’s integrated gas and new energies director, said on Friday in an interview in Palo Alto, California. For proof, he said, look at Europe, where natural gas demand gained last year and LNG imports from overseas were little changed.
Europe is where an LNG cargo lands “if you really can’t find a customer to pay you more than the European gas price,” he said. “It is possible, in the coming years, that supply will move ahead of demand and we’ll see more LNG ending up in Europe, but it hasn’t happened.”
The absence of more Europe-bound shipments is a testament to the “genuine LNG buyers” mopping up new LNG supplies from exporters including the U.S. and Australia, Wetselaar said. Emerging markets and increasing demand from countries including India, Egypt and Pakistan are helping keep a glut at bay.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance has meanwhile forecast that a surplus will persist to 2025, with supplies exceeding demand by 29 percent in 2020. Citi analyst Anthony Yuen said in a report last month that not even recent signs of potentially stronger demand may “trump the massive LNG oversupply.”
While the world may not be dealing with a glut, Wetselaar said the U.S. gas market will continue to be plagued by “really low” prices for decades. “You have a very large inventory of gas that can be produced at sort of below $4 to $4.50” per million British thermal units, he said.
“Who knows what happens when you start to export a lot of LNG, you start doing a lot more gas to chemicals, you start exporting gas to Mexico — the market dynamics can start to push it up,” he said. “But I think compared to global gas prices, the U.S. is going to be at the low end of the range for a very, very long time to come.”
U.S. gas futures are down 12 percent from a year ago. They fell 2.3 percent on Friday to close at $2.556 per mmBtu.