The new gas trading exchange developed by the Australian Energy  Market Operator (AEMO) is scheduled to go live on 20 March 2014. The gas trading exchange is the first stage in the development of a gas supply hub centred on Wallumbilla in Queensland.

Hub design

The gas trading exchange is an electronic trading platform. Market participants submit orders to buy and sell products available for trading through the exchange. Each order must specify price, quantity and whether it is an offer (to sell) or a bid (to buy). The trading platform matches compatible bids and offers and when matched, transactions are formed. Participants must then deliver and settle. The settlement price for a transaction is determined by the price in the order – the gas trading exchange does not establish a single market price for settlement of all transactions.

The exchange is a forum to bring together buyers and sellers to trade short term gas on standard terms. In terms of its role in the gas market, the exchange has very little in common with the Victorian declared wholesale gas market (DWGM) or the short term trading market (STTM). Key features of the gas trading exchange are:

  • voluntary participation – becoming a participant is voluntary, participants only trade when they want to and they remain free to trade bilaterally outside the exchange
  • anonymous trading – although there is also a facility for participants to agree bilaterally to a transaction on standard product terms and then register the transaction for delivery and settlement
  • standardised terms – products are defined by standard product specifications in the Exchange Agreement published by AEMO
  • credit risk management – to support anonymous trading, the exchange operator (initially AEMO) manages prudential requirements
  • contract based – the legal framework for trading is primarily contractual.

In developing the market design, AEMO looked to gas hubs and gas exchanges in the US and the EU. While the design of the gas exchange at Wallumbilla draws on some features of those facilities, it necessarily reflects the underlying gas market and regulatory environment in Australia. For example, unlike some EU gas exchanges, the exchange operator does not arrange for nominations to be registered to effect delivery nor is there a balancing mechanism in the underlying gas market to handle delivery variations. As yet the exchange does not offer hub services (such as compression or storage) which are offered at some other hubs, generally by gas transporters, and which support trading and liquidity.1

Why Wallumbilla?

The Queensland Government proposed the development of a gas supply hub centred on Wallumbilla in its 2011 Gas Market Review. The Gas Market Review foresaw significant changes to the Queensland market when new LNG projects at Gladstone reach operation, driven by the leap in gas volumes through the market.

The Review identified a need for transparent market structures to support trading among LNG participants and other gas producers and users. Wallumbilla was seen as an appropriate centre for trading given its location in gas production areas and given that at Wallumbilla, three major gas transmission pipelines interconnect:

  • the Roma to Brisbane Pipeline or RBP, running from Wallumbilla (Roma) to Gibson Island in Brisbane
  • the Queensland Gas Pipeline or QGP, from Wallumbilla to Gladstone and Rockhampton
  • the South West Queensland Pipeline or SWQP, connecting Ballera and Wallumbilla

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Queensland’s recommendation was taken to the Standing Council on Energy and Resources, which in turn asked AEMO to assess the feasibility of a gas supply hub and then to develop the gas trading exchange. AEMO worked closely with the Gas Supply Hub Reference Group, comprising gas producers, shippers, users and transporters.

Legal framework

Changes to the National Gas Law2 have established AEMO’s gas trading exchange functions. Broadly, these require AEMO to establish, operate and administer one or more gas trading exchanges. The National Gas Law also authorised changes to the National Gas Rules to implement the gas trading exchange. Those changes took effect on 1 January 2014 and inserted a new Part 22 which:

  • deals with administrative matters such as fees
  • specifies that transaction settlement prices must be based on bids and offers
  • requires  AEMO  to  establish  a  methodology  for  determining  the  prices  payable  for delivery variations and termination close out
  • sets the broad framework for participation, suspension and termination
  • specifies the minimum content of the Exchange Agreement and how the modification rules are to operate
  • sets out the market conduct rules.

The market conduct rules are of most practical relevance to market participants. Compliance with those rules is monitored and enforced by the Australian Energy Regulator. They are civil penalty provisions and conduct provisions for the purposes of the National Gas Law.3

The National Gas Rules require AEMO to establish the Exchange Agreement, which contains the substantive rights and obligations of market participants. It is a multilateral agreement to which the exchange operator and all those who sign membership agreements are a party. The agreement defines the process for becoming a participant and gaining access to the electronic  exchange platform, the trading arrangements, prudential requirements, how transactions are concluded and delivery and settlement obligations.

As shown in the diagram, the Exchange Agreement incorporates associated documents such as the settlements and prudential methodology and each membership agreement.

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Trading

Three participant categories are offered: trading participants, reallocation participants who provide credit support to trading participants and viewing participants who can view the market but not trade.

At market start, all products traded through the exchange will be for physical delivery of gas. The exchange includes a capacity listing service but those transactions must be bilaterally negotiated and settled.4

The physical gas products offered though the exchange provide for delivery at one of three trading locations corresponding to the Wallumbilla transfer points for each of the QGP, RBP and SWQP. At each trading location there are two or more delivery points and participants specify the applicable delivery point in their orders.

At market start, there will be four product categories:

  • daily gas – for delivery of the contract quantity over one gas day, traded from D-7 to D-2 (D being the gas day comprising the delivery period)
  • day ahead gas – also for delivery of the contract quantity over one gas day, but traded on D-1
  • balance-of-day gas – which is traded on the gas day, with the delivery period starting one hour after the transaction is confirmed by the trading system
  • weekly gas – for delivery of the contract quantity on each gas day during the delivery period of seven consecutive days starting on a Sunday and traded from D-28 to D-2 (D being the first gas day in the delivery period).

For transactions concluded on the exchange, participants arrange delivery and acceptance of gas by making nominations to gas transporters. Subject to regulations being made under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) relating to financial services licensing, delivery netting will apply to transactions concluded by D-2. Delivery netting is intended to simplify the nomination process for participants who have multiple delivery and receipt obligations on the same day at the same point. Deliveries are netted against receipts and matched with equal and opposite net obligations of one or more other participants.

After gas allocation, which is outside the scope of the exchange rules, participants notify delivered quantities to the exchange operator. Delivery variances are cashed out in settlement using, in broad terms, a 25% discount or uplift to the transaction price or to a market price where delivery netting applies.

The Exchange Agreement and all transactions under it form a single multilateral agreement. All amounts are owed to or by the exchange operator. Among other things, this structure allows for net calculation of market exposure for prudential purposes so reducing participant costs. Settlement is each month in arrears.

More information

The Exchange Agreement and related documents are available on the AEMO website. The market conduct rules are part of the National Gas Rules published on Australian Energy Market Commission website.