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The ACCC has released its July 2022 Interim Gas Report, forecasting that the east coast of Australia could face a shortfall of 56PJ in 2023.   

This is a steep rise from the ACCC’s Gas Inquiry Interim Report in July 2021, which predicted a 2 PJ shortfall in 2022. 

ACCC Chair, Gina Cass-Gottlieb, said these findings suggest there will be a significant risk to energy security on the east coast in the coming months.  

“Our latest gas report finds that the outlook for the east coast gas market has significantly worsened. To protect energy security on the east coast we are recommending the Resources Minister initiate the first step of the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said. 

“We are also strongly encouraging LNG exporters to immediately increase their supply into the market.”

Much of the gas produced in Australia’s east coast is produced by companies that are also LNG exporters.

The ACCC’s report raises concerns about the high level of market concentration, noting that LNG exporters and associates had influence over almost 90 per cent of the proven and probable (2P) reserves in the east coast in 2021 through direct interests, joint ventures and exclusivity arrangements.

The east coast of Australia is forecast to produce 1981 petajoules (PJ) of gas in 2023 of which 1299 PJ, or 65.6 per cent, is forecast to be exported overseas under long term contacts. LNG exporters are also expected to produce a further 167 PJ over what they require to meet their contractual commitments.

This excess gas is not contractually committed and could be supplied into either the domestic market or the international LNG market.

“Increasingly, LNG exporters have diverted most of their excess gas to overseas spot markets, with as much as 70 per cent of the excess volume going overseas in recent years,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“If LNG exporters were to provide all of their excess gas to overseas markets, the east coast gas market would be facing a supply shortfall of 56PJ.”

The report highlights concerns that some LNG exporters are not engaging with the domestic market in the spirit of a Heads of Agreement signed in early 2021, which commits them to offer uncontracted gas to the domestic market first on internationally competitive market terms before it is exported.

Government responds to gas shortage

The Federal Government’s Resources and Northern Australia Minister, Madeleine King,  has responded to the report’s findings by outlining a range of government actions to safeguard Australia’s gas supplies. 

Minister King announced that she is preparing to issue a notice of intent to invoke the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism (ADGSM).

The Minister also announced that the Government will extend the ADGSM until 2030, with a review due in 2025. The ADGSM is currently due to expire in January 2023.

The ADGSM is a measure of last resort which allows the Government, in the event of a predicted shortfall, to restrict exports to ensure enough gas is available for domestic use.

“The Federal Government will ensure Australian households and businesses continue to have access to reliable energy supplies and we will take whatever steps are needed to avoid a repeat of the crisis we faced in early June 2022,” Minister King said. 

“Based on the forecast shortfall, the Government needs to see firm commitments out of the east coast LNG exporters.

“I will continue to work with gas and LNG producers, as well as state and territory governments to encourage new supply, and to find industry-led solutions to secure Australia’s ongoing energy needs.

“The government is also talking with key trading partners to reassure them that Australia remains a trusted trading partner and a stable and reliable exporter of resources and energy.”

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