LNG supply continued to post healthy y/y gains across March and April despite some high-profile maintenance issues. New supply trains are progressing; there are signs that Ichthys T2 is starting to ramp up, while the first trains at Cameron LNG and Freeport LNG are likely to put first volumes into the market in late Q2 19 or early Q3 19. While there are no signs of imminent exports at Prelude, the market should continue to be well-supplied through the summer. The last month has seen a number of long-term deals—some binding and others Heads of Agreement (HOA)—with most of them helping to underwrite new projects that are looking for FIDs in the coming years.
Initial indications from Kpler tanker tracking data suggest that global LNG exports across March and April are coming in around the 32 Mtpm level, up by 6.6 Mtpm y/y. These totals are just modestly below the levels posted in December and January, and with some notable maintenance in the period, it suggests that some of the new trains ramped up quickly and continue to put good volumes into the market. Yamal flows have been notably strong, peaking in March–April around the 1.56 Mtpm level, which is consistent with all three of the 5.5 Mtpa trains operating at full capacity. Sabine Pass exports peaked in March at just over the 2 Mt level, also consistent with all five of the 4.5 Mtpa trains operating at full capacity, although those numbers are down in April given the early spring maintenance seen at two of the facility’s trains. Kpler data also suggest that the 4.5 Mtpa Corpus Christi T1 was operating at capacity over the last two months, with average monthly output at 0.4 Mt y/y.
Of the imminent trains, a new Australian train—the 4.2 Mtpa Ichthys T2—had been penciled in for an April start-up, and there is some evidence that this is occurring. Over Q1 19, exports from the Ichthys T1 averaged around 0.45 Mt per month (0.11 Mt per week), largely in line with a fully ramped-up train 1. However, over the week beginning 15 April, Ichthys recorded its highest week of exports at 0.21 Mt, which would mean the second train is starting to become operational and ramp up. There is little news from Shell’s 3.6 Mtpa Prelude project, which was reported as producing LNG at the end of 2018 but has not yet exported a cargo. While Shell tends to play up the fact that first exports should be soon—and first exports of condensate did occur in late March—there is still no sign of an LNG tanker heading towards Prelude. The project is now some four months delayed from the ‘end of December’ exports, and even a first export in May seems hardly guaranteed.