Australia takes crown as world’s top LNG exporter

Ichthys LNG project in northwestern Australia. Credit: Total SA

Australia has officially become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) on an annualized basis, overtaking the previous titleholder Qatar.

According to figures released by Australian-based energy consultancy EnergyQuest, the country shipped 77.5Mt of locally produced LNG in 2019 – an 11.4% increase over the previous calendar year.

EnergyQuest chief executive Graeme Bethune

“On an annualized basis, we have previously achieved the global title in some individual months, but 2019 is the first time Australia has topped global LNG export performance on a sustained annual basis,” EnergyQuest chief executive Dr. Graeme Bethune stated.

While final production figures for Qatar – now the second-largest exporter – are yet to be released, Australia’s operational capacity of 88Mt now substantially exceeds the 77Mt of its Middle Eastern rival, according to EnergyQuest’s analysis. Qatar’s LNG production forecast was 75Mt in 2019.

Australian LNG exports were also more than twice those of the United States, the world’s other fast-growing LNG producer. The US Energy Information Administration expects the nation to have exported 34.3 million tonnes last year.

Western Australia continued to dominate the country’s LNG output at 57% of the national total, with Queensland garnering 29% of those exports. The largest contributing project was the North West Shelf project operated by Woodside, followed by the Gorgon and Wheatstone projects operated by Chevron.

The largest percentage growth was the Ichthys project operated by Japan’s INPEX in the Northern Territory, producing 7.5Mt in 2019 – up 900% in a year from its commissioning volumes in 2018.

EnergyQuest analysts estimated that Australian LNG export revenue reached A$49.0 billion in 2019, up from A$43.3 billion in 2018 and A$9.4 billion a decade ago in 2010 at the start of the Australian LNG development boom.