Attracting representatives from over 95 countries, and industry leaders from global energy giants such as Shell, Total S.A., and Chevron, LNG X is the major international conference that focuses on the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) market. Taking place every three years at different international locations, this year's "LNG 18" was hosted in Perth, Western Australia. Australia is set to be the largest global exporter of LNG in the next decade, overtaking Qatar by 2020. The Energy and Natural Resources Group at Hogan Lovells is one of the largest in the world. Within its' global network of over 45 offices, including in its offices in Australia, over 400 lawyers are working for energy and natural resources clients.
Concern was expressed at the recent slowdown in demand for LNG at the conference. There was optimism that the market would pick up, but because of this concern a key focus of the conference was the development of innovative strategic approaches to the LNG market. Emphasis was placed upon the relationship between oil prices and the price of LNG, with many key figures advocating for an overhaul in pricing mechanisms for LNG. Ben van Beurden, the Chief Executive at Shell, has suggested that LNG be linked to the Henry Hub price, a spot gas price used in the U.S. By contrast, Peter Coleman, the Chief Executive at Woodside Energy, has argued that the strength of the LNG market could be undermined by the volatility of spot-pricing mechanisms. He asserted that the LNG market would be better served by long-term pricing structures.
The current low LNG prices were highlighted as an opportunity to introduce new consumers into the market. Richard Guerrant of ExxonMobil discussed the emergence of new markets and buyers internationally, highlighting Indonesia, Bangladesh, and India as countries that are likely to increase their use of LNG. Similarly, Shell chief Ben van Beurden considered markets to be opening up in countries such as Thailand, Pakistan, and Poland. A number of the major LNG producers have indicated that they are investing in ship-fuelling operations and floating re-gasification units as a way of attracting these new markets and expanding their consumer base.
In light of the UN Climate Conference held in Paris last year, international environmental commitments were another key focal point at LNG 18. In the opening speech of the conference, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stressed the crucial role that LNG has in this area, stating that "gas is a critical part of the environmental agenda for the future to a cleaner, greener, planet." The potential role of LNG in complying with environmental obligations is a feature that conference participants have argued should be highlighted when marketing LNG products.
The Chief Executives of both Total S.A. and Origin Energy discussed the disjuncture between the international treaty obligations of states and their increasing usage of coal. Due to cheaper prices, countries such as Korea are prioritizing coal as a key energy resource, leading to recent reduction in demand for LNG. Several industry leaders have called for the introduction of a carbon pricing mechanism to encourage the use of LNG. This view was not shared by all of the conference participants, however, with John Watson of Chevron raising concerns that a carbon price mechanism would detrimentally impact upon the energy supply of developing countries, thus increasing "energy poverty."
The importance of corporate social responsibility was also emphasized at LNG18. Colin Barnett, Premier of Western Australia, asserted that large oil and gas companies needed to do more to be seen by the community as good corporate citizens. This meant better and more proactive engagement with the community. He emphasized that these companies should not place undue reliance on incumbent governments and politicians to advocate the relevance and benefits of their projects and should assume a more active and direct role in doing so themselves.