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Australia closing in on Qatar 

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Reuters are reporting that Australia expects to increase exports of LNG by 16% from mid-2018 as US$180 billion in new projects hit their stride, nearly catching up with Qatar.

Rising LNG exports coupled with higher prices for steel-making commodities and thermal coal should see Australia’s overall resource and energy export earnings increase 2% in the year to end-June 2018, to a record AUS$211 billion, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science said on 6 October.

Australia’s LNG exports are forecast to climb to 74 million t in the year to end-June 2019, from 63.8 million t forecast for this year and 52 million t last year.

By comparison, Qatar last year exported 77.6 million t.

The rise in Australian exports will be underpinned by higher output at the Gorgon project, run by Chevron Corp, as well as the completion of three remaining LNG projects: Chevron’s Wheatstone, Inpex Corp’s Ichthys, and Royal Dutch Shell’s Prelude.

Those three projects will add around 21 million t to Australia’s LNG export capacity, taking total capacity to around 88 million t.

Japan, South Korea and China are set to absorb the extra volumes, the department said in its quarterly commodities report.

The department raised its iron ore price forecast for 2017 about 3% to an average US$64 a t, and increased its coking coal price forecast by 6% to US$203.30 a t from its June outlook.

Coking coal contract prices for the third and fourth quarters are forecast to be much lower than the first half, it said, driven by higher production in China and a return to normal in Australia after a cyclone cut output earlier this year.

Iron ore, Australia’s top export earner and dominated by miners Rio Tinto and BHP, has rebounded from a low of US$47 a t in mid-June, to average US$65 a t in the September quarter.

Forecast exports of iron ore were decreased slightly to 862.3 million t in 2017 – 18 and to 886.7 million the following year. 

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