Mumbai: India, the world’s fourth largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) importer, is set to see its demand for LNG double in the next four years, courtesy a glut in the global market and the country’s own increasing demand from the power and fertilizer sector.
India is the largest LNG importer after Japan, Korea, and China and its import capacity over the next four years is expected to double to 45 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) against 22 MTPA currently, says a 5 October report by Citi Research.
The report adds that India’s LNG demand increased from 14 to 16 million metric tonnes (MMT) from FY15-FY16, and has the potential to touch 30 MMT by FY20.
“We believe India’s LNG demand has the potential to increase from 16 to 30 MMTPA over FY16-20E, even if we limit our exercise to clearly identifiable demand contributors already connected to the grid," Citi Research said.
One of the key reasons for the spike in demand could be due to the revival of gas-based power generation in India as a result of the lower LNG prices brought on by the oncoming global LNG glut, which could drive Asian spot prices to below 10% to Brent in 2017 (against 11-12% currently).
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In recent months, Indian LNG imports have risen substantially, with volumes at 1.62 MMT in August, up 9% on a monthly basis and 35% on a yearly basis. This has been aided by falling LNG prices as well as the government’s efforts in increasing gas consumption (especially the power & fertiliser pooling policies introduced last year).
The report states that Essar Group plans to restart its two captive gas-based power capacities at Hazira in Gujarat (500 MW + 515 MW), subject to availability of re-gasification capacity. Both these plants have been shut since 2013, but the economics have now turned favourable as the alternative is to buy relatively more expensive power from the grid.
In addition, Essar will also require LNG for the gas requirement at its steel plant in Hazira and its refinery at Vadinar. “A recent feasibility report released by the Essar Group highlights a total LNG demand estimate of 3.9 MMTPA from the aforementioned power, refinery, and steel plants," the report stated.
Also, there is potential for 7 million standard cubic metres per day (mscmd) of additional gas consumption by the fertiliser sector due to additional production of 3.7 MMT of urea by existing units over the next four years as part of the pooling mechanism.
Refineries, petrochemicals and small industries in Gujarat could also add to the increase in LNG demand.
On an average, the Indian refinery sector consumes about 10-15 mscmd.
Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan launched the Gas for India campaign last month, targeted at promoting gas usage in the country. The campaign will educate citizens on the various benefits of using gas as the preferred fuel, in a bid to raise the share of gas in the country’s energy basket to 15% from the current 6.5%, which is substantially below the world average of 24%.
Apart from efforts to communicate the benefits of using gas as a fuel, the government is also setting up infrastructure for gas usage and promoting a nationwide gas grid. As part of this move, the government has launched a project on city gas distribution (CGD) network in smart cities to encourage the urban population to shift from LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) to PNG (piped natural gas).
The LPG freed up will then be given to below poverty line families under a scheme that was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May, which aims to supply 50 million free LPG connections to the BPL families over a period of five years.
However, the lack of pipeline infrastructure is preventing large scale adoption of LNG in the country. India’s current gas pipeline infrastructure is heavily skewed toward the western, northern and southern parts of the country that account for 75% of the network and 90% of consumption.
“Although there are several pipelines planned for the unconnected regions of the country, there has been little progress on them and hence our estimates on demand from the sectors highlighted earlier are not dependent on their completion and we only include contributions from sources where we feel the existing infrastructure is sufficient to handle the demand," the report said.