Continued increase in global LNG trade in 2019

The global Liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade has continued to increase in 2019, with export growth coming from the USA, Russia, Australia, Algeria and Egypt. Asia Pacific and Asia remain the largest importing regions, although import volumes grew substantially in Europe.

The International Gas Union (IGU) presented its annual world LNG report in April 2020.


LNG global trade


For the sixth year running, global LNG trade continued to increase in 2019. There has been a 13% increase since 2018, reaching 354.73 million tonnes (MT). [1]


LNG exports


Qatar remains the largest exporter in the world, followed by Australia as presented on table 1. The bulk of additional exported volumes in 2019 came from existing exporting markets: the US (+13.1 MT), Australia (+8.7 MT) and Russia (+11 MT).


Algeria observed a noteworthy shift in export volumes (+2.1 MT), hence recovering partially from their 2018 decrease. This recovery was made possible by the drop in gas and LNG prices which have made LNG more competitive in Europe.


There are now 20 exporting countries. Argentina made its entry to the list of exporters after exporting a first cargo in November 2019 supported by the new Tango floating LNG project. 

In 2019, only three markets experienced a decrease in exported volumes since 2018: Indonesia (-2.7 MT), Equatorial Guinea (-0.65 MT) and Norway (-0.45 MT).


LNG imports


Overall, Asia Pacific and Asia remain the largest importing regions, consistent with 2018.


Europe registered the largest increases in imports: the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium alone imported an additional 32 MT in 2019. This increase was supported by low gas and LNG prices, declines in domestic production, increased use of storage and additional gas-fired power generation.


There were no new importers added to the list of 42 importing countries in 2019. Nevertheless, most recent new importers (countries that started importing LNG between 2015 and 2018) increased imports in 2019, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Poland and Panama.


Table 1: Top 10 exporters and importers by market in million tonnes (MT) in 2019

  Top 10 exporters Top 10 importers
1 Qatar 77.8 MT Japan 76.9 MT
2 Australia 75.4 MT China 61.7 MT
3 USA 33.8 MT South Korea 40.1 MT
4 Russia 29.3 MT India 24.0 MT
5 Malaysia 26.2 MT Chinese Taipei 16.7 MT
6 Nigeria 20.8 MT Spain 15.7 MT
7 Indonesia 15.5 MT France 15.6 MT
8 Trinidad & Tobago 12.5 MT UK 13.5 MT
9 Algeria 12.2 MT Italy 9.8 MT
10 Oman 10.3 MT Turkey 9.4 MT


Liquefaction plants


Global liquefaction capacity continued to expand in 2019, mainly in Australia, Russia, USA and Argentina. Around 42.5 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of liquefaction capacity was brought online, leading global liquefaction capacity up to 430.5 MTPA. This represents 11% year-on-year growth from 2018.

With the growing demand for LNG globally, additional liquefaction capacity is needed. To meet the expected demand, a record volume of liquefaction projects has been sanctioned in 2019, totalling 70.8 MTPA, compared to 21.5 MTPA for projects sanctioned in 2018.


There is growing interest in developing liquefaction facilities in the Arctic region, as evidenced by the sanctioning of Arctic LNG 2. In the Arctic region, projects could benefit from abundant gas resources, geographic flexibility in exporting to both Europe and Asia, and cooling efficiency thanks to Arctic climate.


In East Africa, the sanctioning of Mozambique LNG Area 1 is of great impact in a market that currently has no operational LNG facilities. The sanctioning of Mozambique LNG Area 1 in 2019 and Coral South floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) in 2017, along with a potential Final Investment Decision (FID) on Rovuma LNG Area 4 in 2020 would allow Mozambique to become the largest African LNG exporter.

Coral South FLNG will be the world’s first ultra-deepwater FLNG facility to operate at a water depth of 2000 metres.


Aside from this project, there are currently two other FLNGs under construction. Petronas PFLNG Dua sailed away from South Korea in February 2020 and should start to produce LNG from the deepwater Rotan gas field, offshore Malaysia in November 2020.

The Greater Tortue Ahmeyim FLNG project offshore Mauritania and Senegal was scheduled to enter into service in 2022. However, due to the COVID-19 crisis, the target connection date may be delayed by a year. [2]


LNG carriers


The global LNG fleet consisted of 541 active vessels at the end of 2019, (+8.4% compared with the end of 2018). 42 new vessels were added to the global fleet, three of which were Floating Storage Regasification Units (FSRUs).


Regasification terminals


As of February 2020, the global LNG regasification capacity was 821 MTPA across 37 markets. Japan has the world’s largest regasification capacity of 210.5 MTPA, representing 25% of global regasification capacity.


Seven new terminals were built in existing LNG import countries, namely Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, and Jamaica, thus supporting a growth in receiving capacity of +23.4 MTPA.


In the Caribbean, Jamaica’s new floating terminal is the first of its kind in the region. Commissioned in July 2019, it will serve as an import facility to supply new gas-fired power plants in the region.

There is an additional 120.4 MTPA of new regasification capacity under construction as of February 2020. This could potentially lead to the addition of three new importing markets: Bahrain, Ghana and the Philippines.


As the global market is experiencing unprecedented low LNG prices, the moment could be opportune for switching from more polluting fuels to natural gas. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down several expansion projects.


In April 2022, the 20th International Conference & Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG 2022), co-organized by the International Gas Union (IGU), the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) and the International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR), will take place in Saint Petersburg, Russia [3]. With delegates including energy ministers, CEOs, civil society and academia from all over the world, LNG 2022 will be an important meeting to discuss the global liquefied natural gas market.