A rush by China to sign new long-term liquefied natural gas (LNG) deals promises to give the nation even more control over the global market at a time when competition for cargoes is booming.
Chinese companies are sealing the most LNG purchase agreements of any nation and increasingly are becoming the sector’s key import intermediary. The Chinese buyers are reselling many of the cargoes to the highest bidders in Europe and Asia, effectively taking charge over a hefty chunk of supply.
Firms based in China account for roughly 15% of all contracts that’ll begin delivering LNG supply through 2027, according to an analysis of BloombergNEF data. That trend is set to increase as the companies seek to lock in more long-term agreements, which will effectively give their traders control over the fuel for decades.
From copper to rare earths, China is expanding its influence over commodities that are vital to both the nation’s economy and the world’s transition away from the dirtiest fossil fuels. China has become one of the world’s top LNG importers nearly overnight amid a push from Beijing to ensure energy security.
The Asian nation’s position in the market could be a double-edged sword: China can provide stability during periods of global shortages, but it could withhold supply and drive up prices if the needs at home must be met.
“China is evolving from being a rapidly growing import market to playing a more flexible role with an increased ability to balance the global LNG market,” Shell Plc said in its annual LNG outlook report released last week.
China’s influence was highly visible last year during the global energy crunch, when strict Covid policies and high spot prices curbed the nation’s demand, prompting it to divert unwanted shipments to more needy regions.
“If not for the lower Chinese LNG demand in 2022, the global gas market — and Europe’s energy security — would be in a far more perilous state,” said Saul Kavonic, an energy analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG.
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