'Slow-moving train wreck': Australia virtually giving its gas away


July 21, 2016 17:35:24

Australia’s largest ever investment boom of $200 billion into Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) during the past decade has crashed spectacularly, and left the Federal Government with little or no revenue to show for it.

Key points

  • $200 billion invested in Australian LNG projects over the last decade
  • Australia set to become the world’s biggest exporter of LNG
  • LNG price has fallen 75 per cent

Australia’s gas is now being exported to Asia at close to the cost of production, leaving investors with marginal returns and raising the prospect some coal seam gas projects may be mothballed.

“We are on the cusp of becoming the biggest gas or LNG exporter in the world,” energy analyst Greg Houston told 7.30.

But the collapse of the gas price means that there will be little or no financial benefit.

“The crash is a slow-moving train wreck, if you like,” Mr Houston said.

“The price has dropped by 75 per cent.

“That’s a huge financial hit to the people who have made this investment.”

Long-term contracts for Australian gas have been pegged to the price of oil, which has meant the recent steep fall in the oil price has also hit LNG exports.

“The drop in oil prices has really hit the economics of these projects hard, as it’s happening right when they are starting up and when they are achieving some revenue,” Wood Mackenzie senior analyst Saul Kavonic told 7.30.

At risk, Mr Kavonic believes, are some of the coal seam gas projects based around Gladstone, which could be forced to run below capacity or shut down.

Origin Energy chief executive officer Grant King conceded LNG exporters are under pressure, although he remains optimistic about the company’s plan to launch a second export train on Curtis Island later this year.

“There is no doubt that the current low oil prices are very inconvenient,” he said.

“We are doing all of the things that we can to reduce costs and reduce capital outlays to make sure that we get through this very difficult period.”

Australia’s resources ‘haven’t been managed that well’

Australia’s LNG boom has also been of little benefit to Australian taxpayers, according to Monash University’s Dr Diane Kraal, who said the country was virtually giving the gas away.

“In terms of revenue from tax, it’s very minimal,” she told 7.30.

“I would say at the end of the day Australians are still waiting for cash to come from these LNG projects for much-needed infrastructure in Australia.”

LNG exporters pay the Federal Government a resource rent tax originally introduced for petroleum and Dr Kraal believes that it is inappropriate for LNG.

“The LNG boom is just another example of a country with a lot of mineral resources that unfortunately haven’t been managed that well, in terms of the return to the community,” she said.






First posted

July 21, 2016 17:33:42

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