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Billionaire miner plans Australia LNG import plant

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Bloomberg are reporting that Billionaire miner Andrew Forrest and two of Japan’s biggest power companies plan to build a LNG import terminal in Australia by 2020.

The terminal could process as many as 2 million tpy of LNG in New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, to help ease an energy crisis that’s crimped supplies for industrial users, the Australian Industrial Energy consortium said on 26 February in a statement. The volume of gas, equivalent to 100 petajoules annually, represents about 75% of the state’s gas demand.

Forrest, the chairman of the world’s no. 4 iron ore exporter Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., is backing the initiative through his Squadron Energy unit along with Marubeni Corp. and Jera Co., a venture between Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. and Chubu Electric Power Co. The plan follows a proposal by AGL Energy Ltd. to build an import terminal in Victoria.

Australia is poised to join other large LNG exporters such as Indonesia and Malaysia in building import facilities amid a domestic shortfall that’s seen energy prices surge.

“This project could provide much needed support to Australian manufacturers within two years, that’s much sooner than other proposed solutions," Squadron Energy Chief Executive Officer Stuart Johnston said in the statement. The facility “would be capable of bringing the world’s cheapest gas to the east coast market, whether that be from Australia’s existing Western Australian gas resources, or other global markets." The three locations in New South Wales being considered for the import plant are Port Botany, Port Kembla and Newcastle with a final investment decision to be made by the end of 2018, the consortium’s project leader James Baulderstone said in an interview Monday. The consortium could also supply gas to a large-scale gas-fired power station in the state. AGL’s proposal in the southern state of Victoria could start operations by 2020 – 21.

Gas from the offshore terminal, known as a floating storage and regasification unit, could be supplied to industrial customers on Australia’s east coast for AUS$8 to AUS$12 a gigajoule, according to Baulderstone. Marubeni and Jera will start marketing the gas in New South Wales and may source LNG for the plant from Jera’s global network, the two companies said in a separate statement on 26 February.

Gas prices have fallen from a peak of AUS$16 a gigajoule in early 2017 to between AUS$8 and AUS$12 a gigajoule, while a projected gas deficit in 2018 for the nation’s eastern states will narrow to 33 petajoules from 108 petajoules if demand peaks, the nation’s competition regulator said in a December report. Even so, some buyers are still frustrated by the terms of gas supply offers in the market.

Last year Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proposed rules to restrict gas exports in the eastern state of Queensland amid concerns that LNG exports had contributed to crimped supplies and a tripling of Australia’s wholesale gas price in the past two years.

Australia’s LNG exports will rise to 63 million tpy by mid-2018, according to consultancy EnergyQuest, with the second train of Chevron Corp.’s Wheatstone project and Inpex Corp.’s Ichthys plants both due to start up in the next few months.

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