Liquefied natural gas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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ability of 5 mtpa. Other facilities needed are load-out terminals for loading the LNG onto vehicles, LNG vessels for transportation, and a receiving terminal at the destination for discharge and regasification, where the LNG is reheated and turned into gas. Regasification terminals are usually connected to a storage and pipeline distribution network to distribute natural gas to local distribution companies (LDCs) or Independent Power Plants (IPPs).
In 1964 the UK and France were the LNG buyers under the world’s first LNG trade from Algeria, witnessing a new era of energy. As most LNG plants are located in "stranded" areas not served by pipelines, the costs of LNG treatment and transportation were so huge that development has been slow during the past half century. The construction of an LNG plant costs USD 1-3 billion, a receiving terminal costs USD 0.5-1 billion, and LNG vessels cost USD 0.2-0.3 billion. Compared with the crude oil, the natural gas market is small but mature. The commercial development of LNG is a style called value chain, which means LNG suppliers first confirm the downstream buyers and then sign 20-25 year contracts with strict terms and structures for gas pricing. Only when the customers were confirmed and the development of a greenfield project deemed economically feasible could the sponsors of an LNG project invest in their development and operation. Thus, the LNG business has been regarded as a game of the rich, where only players with strong financial and political resources could get involved. Major international oil companies (IOCs) such as BP, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell; and national oil companies (NOCs) such as Pertamina, Petronas are active players. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan import large sums of LNG due to their shortage of energy. In 2002 Japan imported 54 million tons of LNG, representing 48% of the LNG trade around the world that year. Also in 2002, South Korea imported 17.7 million tons and Taiwan 5.33 million tons. These three major buyers purchase approximately 70% of the world's LNG demand.
In recent years, as more players take part in investment, both in downstream and upstream, and new technologies are adopted, the prices for construction of LNG plants, receiving terminals and vessels have fallen, making LNG a more competitive means of energy distribution. The standard price for a 125,000-cubic-meter LNG vessel built in European and Japanese shipyards used to be USD 250 million. When Korean and Chinese shipyards entered the race, increased competition reduced profit margins and improved efficiency, reducing costs 60%. Costs in US dollar terms also declined due to the devaluation of the currencies of the world's largest shipbuilders, Japan and Korean. Since 2004, ship costs have increased due to a large number of orders increasing demand for shipyard slots. The per-ton construction cost of a LNG liquefaction plant fell steadily from the 1970s through the 1990s, with the cost reduced approximately 35%.
Due to energy shortage concerns, many new LNG terminals are being contemplated in the United States. Concerns over the safety of such facilities has created extensive controversy in the regions where plans have been created to build such facilities. One such location is in the Long Island Sound between Connecticut and Long Island. Broadwater Energy, an effort between TransCanada Corp. and Shell (A British-Dutch Corporation) wishes to build a LNG terminal in the sound on the New York side. Local politicians including the Suffolk County Executive have raised questions about the terminal. New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton have both announced their opposition to the project. Several terminal proposals along the coast of Maine have also been met with high levels of resistance and questions. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is planning to deliver its report to Congress on LNG in the spring of 2006.
Trade in LNG
LNG is shipped around the world in specially constructed seagoing vessels. The trade of LNG is completed by signing a sale and purchase agreement (SPA) between a supplier and receiving terminal, and by signing a gas sale agreement (GSA) between a receiving terminal and end-users. Most of the contract terms used to be DES or Ex Ship, which meant the seller was responsible for the transportation. But with low shipbuilding costs, and the buyer preferring to ensure reliable and stable supply, there are more and more contract terms of FOB, under which the buyer is responsible for the transportation, which is realized by the buyer owning the vessel or signing a long-term charter agreement with independent carriers.
The agreements for LNG trade used to be long-term portfolios that were relatively inflexible both in price and volume. If the annual contract quantity is confirmed, the buyer is obliged to take and pay for the product, or pay for it even if not taken, which is called the obligation of take or pay (TOP).
In contrast to LNG imported to North America, where the price is pegged to Henry Hub, most of the LNG imported to Asia is pegged to crude oil prices by a formula consisting of indexation called the Japan Crude Cocktail (JCC).
The pricing structure that has been widely used in Asian LNG SPAs is as follows: PLNG = A+B×Pcrude oil, where A refers to a term that represents various non-oil factors, but usually a constant determined by negotiation at a level that can prevent LNG prices from falling below a certain level. It thus varies regardless of oil price fluctuation. Typical figures of ex-ship contracts range from USD 0.7 to 0.9. B is a degree of indexation to oil prices; typical figures are 0.1485 or 0.1558, and Pcrude oil usually denominated in JCC. PLNG and Pcrude oil stand for price of oil in USD per million British Thermal Unit (MMBTU (in the fuel industry, M stands for 1000 and MM for 1 000 000)). With the demand of LNG moving up and down, the price of LNG moves in a "S" curve. With new demand from China, India and US increasing dramatically, and crude oil price skyrocketing, the LNG price is on the rise too.
In the mid 1990s LNG was a buyer's market. At the request of buyers, the SPAs began to adopt some flexibilities on volume
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