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A Perfect Storm Is Brewing For US LNG

A Perfect Storm Is Brewing For US LNG

LNG tanker

That the U.S. energy industry would be among those hardest hit by a full-blown trade war between Washington and Beijing was a no-brainer. Yet the extent of the fallout as the war continues is only becoming evident now, as some companies find it hard to secure the funding for their ambitious LNG projects.

According to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a number of companies may delay their final investment decisions on new LNG capacity to next year because of U.S.-Chinese trade tensions. Bloomberg reports these include Tellurian and NextDecade, as well as other companies focused exclusively on LNG.

“We see delays as likely given current pricing headwinds, no resolution yet on the U.S.-China trade war, and minimal contract announcements in recent months,” BofA analysts wrote in a recent note to clients, referring to Tellurian’s US$28-billion Driftwood LNG project in Louisiana.

While the companies themselves are not too talkative when it comes to possible obstacles to the so-called second wave of LNG projects in the U.S., the facts are not encouraging: China has imported no U.S. LNG since March, according to data from ClipperData. Bloomberg data is even gloomier: it suggests no U.S. LNG has made its way into China since February. No wonder, since Beijing first imposed a 10-percent tariff on the commodity and then upped this to 25 percent in retaliation for U.S. tariffs. 

Yet there is another aspect of the trade war that is more damaging to U.S. LNG producers. To secure funding for these projects that typically cost billions, U.S. companies need long-term commitments to convince banks the projects are viable. Chinese buyers were the natural choice for these long-term commitments but this is no longer the case as Chinese investors shun U.S. projects amid the war.

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