Japan’s PM to visit Darwin for opening of Ichthys LNG

Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, image: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Washington D.C, United States

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Darwin tomorrow (Friday) for the official opening of the $US40 billion Ichthys LNG project.

With the opening of the Ichthys LNG project, Australia is set to become the world’s biggest LNG exporter.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said as our second largest trading partner, and a key source of foreign direct investment, our relationship with Japan makes our economy stronger.

“During the visit, Prime Minister Abe and I will highlight our deep trade and investment relationship including through INPEX’s Ichthys LNG Project, which has created jobs and opportunities for Northern Australia and will continue to benefit the Australian economy for decades to come.”

Related article: INPEX ships first LNG cargo

According to the latest Monthly LNG Report by respected energy economics group EnergyQuest, total Australian LNG shipments were significantly higher in October at 6.4 million tonnes (Mt) – up 10.3 per cent on 5.8 Mt in September.

The increased export shipments were boosted in part by the start of production from the Ichthys plant, which saw its first LNG cargo depart Darwin on October 22, followed by two further cargoes.

EnergyQuest Chief Executive Dr Graeme Bethune said the higher October shipments were 76 Mtpa on an annualised basis, prior to any significant production from Ichthys (annual capacity of 8.9 Mtpa) and the start-up of Shell’s Prelude project (3.6 Mtpa).

“As Ichthys ramps up production in coming months we expect Australia’s annualised production rate to overtake Qatar’s nominal capacity of 77 Mtpa, making us the world’s biggest exporter,” Dr Bethune said.

“Latest reports are for a further three Ichthys cargoes to load in November from the Darwin plant to be sold on the spot market.”

Dr Bethune said the October increase in Australian shipments reflected strong performance by west coast projects. East coast shipments were slightly below those in September, following agreement by east coast gas producers to offer uncontracted gas to the domestic market in the event of any shortfall.

Related article: Long-term LNG asset agreement announced

Meanwhile, Dr Bethune said that after passing Japan in April this year as the world’s largest importer of natural gas (comprising both LNG and international pipeline gas), China’s LNG imports are growing quickly, with September imports up 26 per cent on a year earlier.

“Australia continues to be the largest LNG supplier to China, supplying 43 per cent of Chinese LNG imports in September,” he said.

“Notwithstanding strong Chinese demand, Chinese LNG imports from the US have slumped, from 0.5 Mt in January to only 0.1 Mt in September.

“This reflects the China-US trade war, plus record LNG shipping costs, particularly charter rates, which disadvantage longer distance transport.”