Australia says it’s doing what it can to ensure supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asian customers will remain reliable, in response to concerns producers could be forced to redirect to relieve domestic shortfalls.
Heightened demand for gas in Australia and projections of a shortage next year have prompted calls for the government to “pull the trigger” on a policy to force gas operators in the eastern states to offer uncontracted cargoes to the domestic market before exporting spot cargoes.
“I understand the concerns of the Japanese and Koreans as well,” Australian Minister for Resources Madeleine King said in an interview in Canberra on Wednesday. “The things we have control over, we will be working cooperatively with them,” she said, while stopping short of guaranteeing there would be no re-directing of supply.
Japan imported more than A$17 billion ($11.4 billion) of the fossil fuel from Australia last year. Ambassador Shingo Yamagami told a mining conference in Canberra on Tuesday that his government is “watching carefully the consultation currently underway in response to the prediction of a gas shortage” in Australia next year.
Canberra has the power to force gas producers in the east to redirect uncontracted cargoes tipped for international markets for domestic consumption, but has so far declined to use it. In August the government said it would review the law, and a spokesman for Minister King said on Wednesday that the consultation on this was ongoing.
The shortages have also prompted renewed calls for a nationwide policy to reserve a portion of all gas for local markets, which would protect Australia from international price hikes — such a law is already in place in Western Australia.
A report by BloombergNEF in August found even if LNG cargoes were redirected to the domestic market to meet projected shortfalls, it would only impact around 4% of Australia’s exports.