A multibillion-dollar pipeline of projects aiming to ship gas around the world on giant tankers could be in jeopardy because of a collapse in the global gas market, according to a report.
A study by Global Energy Monitor has found that spending on new gas terminals needed to ship super-chilled liquified natural gas (LNG) on seaborne tankers has more than doubled in the past year, from $82.8bn (£66.3bn) to $196.1bn.
However, many of these projects risk being abandoned because of a glut of fossil fuel supply, which could cause the “gas bubble” to burst.
The global market price of LNG had tumbled to record lows before the coronavirus outbreak and has fallen further as lockdown measures across the world’s major economies continue to sap demand for fossil fuels.
Ted Nace, the executive director of Global Energy Monitor, said: “LNG’s problems won’t magically disappear with the end of the pandemic. In the power sector, modelling shows that renewable packages are already outcompeting imported gas in South Korea. And every year that goes by, renewables get more competitive.”
In a separate report, HSBC warned that the global gas market will remain oversupplied, “not just in 2020 but through most of this decade”. The bank said many LNG projects that are due to begin operations in the middle of the decade will be cancelled or delayed and those that move ahead can expect weaker than expected returns.
Greig Aitken, a research analyst at Global Energy Monitor, said LNG was “once considered a safe bet” for investors but is now “beset with problems” because of an oversupply of gas in the market and waning interest in fossil fuels.
A decade ago LNG was considered by many to be a “green” investment because burning gas for power emits roughly half the emissions as burning coal and could play a role in dramatically reducing carbon emissions in countries that rely on coal.
The LNG boom was stoked by the US shale gas boom, which led to major investments in US export terminals and new import terminals across Asia and Europe.
However, many countries have since adopted renewable energy at a quicker than expected rate and are relying on pipelines to import gas at a lower cost than shipping LNG cargoes by sea.
Andrew McDowell, the European Investment Bank’s vice-president, said investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure including LNG is “increasingly an economically unsound decision”.