Southeast Asia is set to drive up demand for natural gas — it’s where ‘all the action’ will be

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Liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage units.

Dan Kitwood | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Southeast Asian countries are expected to be key demand drivers for the LNG market by 2030, industry watchers say.

Trade in global liquefied natural gas rose to a record in 2022, fueled largely by a surge in demand from Europe as the region moves away from relying on Russian pipelines following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. However, Europe’s demand for LNG is expected to recede in a few years.

Tony Regan, the Asia-Pacific gas lead from NexantECA, an energy and refining advisory, expects LNG demand from Europe to peak in 2027, before falling in 2030.

“This is where I think all the action is actually going to be: Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia,” said Regan.

Vietnam is a bright spot for the LNG market, said Regan forecasting strong growth in demand from the country over the next few years largely because of the government’s Power Development Plan 8.The plan stipulates that all coal plants must be converted to alternative fuels or retired by 2050.

“Very strong growth in demand over the next few years, because 13 of the new power plants that have been proposed on the plan are going to be LNG fired, and then another 10 also gas fired. So that’s going to create a strong pull on energy from Vietnam,” said Regan.

By 2033, Southeast Asia LNG demand is forecast to be 73 million tons per year, making up 12% of the global LNG market. This is almost a quadrupling of demand compared to 2022.

Zhi Xin Chong

S&P Global’s Head of Emerging Asia’s Gas and LNG markets

Vietnam has long been considered an important LNG growth market due to its “strong economic and population growth,” said Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. That growth is expected to spearhead demand for energy.

Vietnam’s GDP is forecast to surge from $327 billion in 2022 to $760 billion by 2030, S&P Global estimates.

The global LNG market is projected to grow from $74.60 billion in 2023 to $103.41 billion by 2028, according to forecasts by analysis and consulting firm Mordor Intelligence.

Energy giant Shell said it’s seen “tremendous growth” in the LNG market in the last two months, and highlighted three countries that will be pivotal drivers, two of which are from Southeast Asia.

“We’ve supplied three new countries, Germany, Vietnam, and Philippines, and they’re all very significant potential LNG markets,” said executive vice president for Shell Energy, Steve Hill said at the recent Gastech conference held in Singapore.

“These markets have broken the challenge of implementing LNG imports and now there’s this great growth potential,” Hill said, highlighting that these countries recently received their first cargoes, cementing more progress toward their LNG ambitions.

Likewise, S&P Global shares the optimism that Southeast Asia is poised to be a prime market for the LNG natural gas. 

“By 2033, Southeast Asia LNG demand is forecast to be 73 million tons per year, making up 12% of the global LNG market,” said Zhi Xin Chong, S&P Global’s head of Emerging Asia’s gas and LNG markets. According to data provided by the analytics firm, that will mark a near quadrupling of demand compared to 2022. 

The continued decline in domestic gas supply, alongside the shift from coal to gas in the power sector, will be the main drivers of the growth story, Chong told CNBC. 

“The largest markets are likely to be Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, given that these markets have already been importing LNG for a number of years,” he said.

However, he cautioned that demand for these markets are still fragile, and dependent on stable prices.

“It is crucial that LNG prices remain stable and global funding is forthcoming to finance the necessary infrastructure,” Chong said.

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