Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gas Price Gain in China Seen as Boon to Asia LNG: Energy Markets

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Gas Price Gain in China Seen as Boon to Asia LNG: Energy Markets
2013-04-18 00:15:15.978 GMT


By Bloomberg News
April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Liquefied natural gas is poised for
a boost this year after slumping to the lowest level in four
months as China increases the appeal of imports by raising the
price of domestic supplies.
The world's biggest energy user will increase residential
gas tariffs by as much as 20 percent in some cities, according
to brokers including Mirae Asset Securities Ltd. and CLSA Ltd.
Buyers in parts of China are already paying as much as $25 per
million British thermal units, compared with international LNG
prices that slid to $14.90 this week, the lowest since November,
according to World Gas Intelligence.
Record pollution in Beijing this year has prompted the
government to boost gas prices to encourage companies such as
China National Petroleum Corp. and China National Offshore Oil
Corp. to supply cleaner-burning gas from domestic deposits. The
increases will make LNG imports more attractive in the short
term, according to ICIS C1 Energy, an energy consultant. In the
longer term, they may reduce China's reliance on overseas energy
by providing the stimulus to tap domestic reserves, CLSA said.
"We see a strong possibility that price reforms will be
extended to more regions this year," Ricki Wang, a Shanghai-
based analyst at C1 Energy, said by phone April 15. "With
higher domestic gas prices, importers will have more incentive
to buy LNG on the international market, especially at peak
consumption periods, as their margins will improve. This will
probably give some support to LNG prices in Asia."

Retail Prices

The price of LNG for delivery in four to eight weeks in
northeast Asia has dropped from as much as $19.40 per million
Btu on Feb. 4, according to New York-based World Gas
Intelligence. Prices have slipped as seasonal heating demand
declines at the end of the northern-hemisphere winter. They rose
to a record after Japan shut its nuclear reactors following the
March 2011 earthquake, stoking demand for alternative power
sources such as gas.
Residential gas in 83 major Chinese cities that hadn't yet
introduced gas-price reforms cost from $4.30 to $25 per million
Btu as of December, CLSA estimated in a Jan. 28 report. The
median was about $10 per million Btu.
Prices in cities in Guangxi and Guangdong ranged from
$12.90 to $25.50 per million Btu, according to CLSA. Those
provinces were chosen by the National Development and Reform
Commission, the nation's top economic planner, to host a pilot
program in December 2011 that links gas to the cost of imported
liquefied petroleum gas and heavy fuel oil. The previous system
based tariffs on the cost of domestic production and transport.

Gas Consumption

The rules were introduced to make local gas more
competitive with overseas supplies without "generally"
increasing the consumer burden, the NDRC said then. The program
was to be reviewed before being rolled out nationwide, it said.
Changchun city in the northeastern province of Jilin
increased prices by 40 percent on April 1 to 2.8 yuan per cubic
meter, equivalent to $12.70 per million Btu. CNPC, China's
biggest oil and gas producer, signed an agreement with the
provincial government in January to boost gas supplies and
increase investment.
The northern municipality of Tianjin held a public hearing
to discuss raising prices by 0.2 yuan from the current level of
2.2 yuan per cubic meter, China National Radio reported April 9.
China plans almost to double the proportion of energy
demand met by gas to 7.5 percent of the total by 2015 from 2010
levels, the government said in its Five Year Plan released in
January. The share was 4.4 percent in 2010 and 5 percent in
2011, according data from the Beijing-based National Bureau of
Statistics.

Growing Demand

The nation imported 14.7 million metric tons of seaborne
LNG in 2012, up 20 percent from the prior year, according to
customs data. It paid an average $10.77 per million Btu for LNG
imports last year, data compiled by Bloomberg show. China bought
15.8 million tons by cross-border pipeline last year, mostly
from Turkmenistan, up 52 percent from 2011. A pipeline from
Myanmar operated by CNPC is scheduled to start this year.
While price gains this year will be a burden to consumers
from households to businesses, they won't be enough to stop
consumption advancing, according to Michael Lo, an energy
analyst at BNP Paribas SA in Hong Kong.
"The growth of the Chinese appetite for gas alone will
drive LNG demand," Lo said. "A 20 percent increase in domestic
gas prices is unlikely to reduce LNG demand."

Replacing Crude

China's drive to increase gas consumption is partly to curb
pollution and partly to reduce its reliance on more-costly
overseas energy, including LNG and crude, that may ultimately
undermine international prices, according to CLSA. Five cities
will increase tariffs this year, by an average of 15 percent,
and 10 cities will post an average gain of 20 percent in 2014,
the broker predicted in its report.
"What really keeps Beijing awake at night is that imports
of crude are rising faster than domestic production," Simon
Powell, the head of Asian oil and gas research at CLSA in Hong
Kong, said by phone April 11. "China wants to stimulate big
natural-gas production domestically, and some imports, and use
it wherever possible to replace oil consumption."
Brent crude, the benchmark for more than half the world's
oil, fell below $100 a barrel on April 16 for the first time
since July. That's still equivalent to a gas price of $18.50 per
million Btu. Brent for June settlement was at $97.32 today.
Oil accounted for about 19 percent of China's energy
consumption in 2011, according to the statistics bureau. The
nation will import 65 percent of its crude needs by 2020, Lv
Jianzhong, the deputy head of CNPC's Economics and Technology
Institute, said in a presentation in Beijing April 11. The State
Council, China's cabinet, said Jan. 24 that it planned to limit
overseas purchases to 61 percent of demand.

Inflation Threat

Gas imports will be 100 billion cubic meters a year by
2015, compared with domestic output of 176 billion, Lv
predicted. The government has set an output target for shale
gas, an unconventional source where the fuel is trapped in
underground rock, of 80 billion cubic meters a year by 2020, or
23 percent of total expected demand. China currently produces no
commercial quantities.
Retail gas prices will rise about 20 percent this year and
the same again in 2014, according to Gordon Kwan, the regional
head of energy research at Mirae Asset Securities Ltd. in Hong
Kong. While President Xi Jinping is serious about boosting gas
consumption, he'll move gradually to avoid sparking inflation,
Kwan said.
China's CPI climbed 2.1 percent in March from a year
earlier, the statistics bureau said April 9. That compares with
3.2 percent in February, a 10-month high, when spending for the
Lunar New Year holiday pushed up costs.
"There will be no 'big bang' gas-pricing reform," Kwan
said. "There is a 50 percent chance that China could delay
price reforms if the consumer price index hits 4 percent, which
is the red alert level for Xi Jinping's new government. If
pricing reforms are delayed, this will mean less incentive for
the producers to commercialize high-cost gas resources, making
China more dependent on imports."

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--With assistance from Sarah Chen in Beijing. Editors: Paul
Gordon, Alexander Kwiatkowski

To contact the reporter on this story:
Jing Yang in Shanghai at +86-21-6104-3052 or
jyang251@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Alexander Kwiatkowski at +65-6212-1329 or
akwiatkowsk2@bloomberg.net

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