ARKANSAS, Oct 3 (Future Headlines)- The liquefied natural gas (LNG) market is undergoing a significant transformation, with Southeast Asian countries emerging as key demand drivers by 2030. While Europe has been a major consumer of LNG due to its shift away from Russian pipelines, the focus is shifting towards Southeast Asia. This region, encompassing countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the global LNG market.

In 2022, global LNG trade reached a record high, primarily driven by surging demand from Europe as the continent sought alternatives to Russian natural gas following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. However, experts predict that Europe’s reliance on LNG will decrease in the coming years.

Tony Regan, Asia-Pacific gas lead from NexantECA, anticipates that LNG demand from Europe will peak in 2027 and then gradually decline by 2030. This forecast is attributed to several factors, including Europe’s efforts to diversify its energy sources and reduce dependency on LNG.

The focus of LNG demand is shifting from Europe to Southeast Asia, with countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia leading the way. Several factors contribute to this shift. Vietnam stands out as a bright spot in the LNG market. Strong growth in demand is expected due to the government’s Power Development Plan 8. This plan mandates the conversion of coal plants to alternative fuels or their retirement by 2050. Vietnam’s commitment to cleaner energy sources is driving the adoption of LNG, with 13 new power plants proposed in the plan set to be LNG-fired.

Vietnam’s robust economic and population growth is a catalyst for increased energy demand. The country’s GDP is projected to surge from $327 billion in 2022 to $760 billion by 2030, according to S&P Global estimates. This economic expansion is a significant driver of energy demand, including LNG.

Southeast Asia, as a whole, is poised to become a prime market for LNG. S&P Global’s forecasts indicate that by 2033, LNG demand in Southeast Asia will reach 73 million tons per year, accounting for 12% of the global LNG market. This represents a nearly fourfold increase in demand compared to 2022.

The reduction in domestic gas supply in Southeast Asian countries is pushing them to seek alternative sources of energy, including LNG imports. Many Southeast Asian nations are transitioning from coal to natural gas in their power sectors to reduce emissions and meet environmental goals. This shift is a significant driver of LNG demand. Countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore have been importing LNG for several years, establishing them as experienced LNG markets with infrastructure in place.

While the outlook for LNG demand in Southeast Asia is positive, there are challenges and considerations. Stable LNG prices are crucial to sustaining demand in these markets. Fluctuations in prices can impact the economic viability of LNG as an energy source. To support the growth in LNG demand, substantial investments in infrastructure are required. Ensuring access to global funding to finance this infrastructure is essential. As these countries increase their reliance on LNG, ensuring a steady and secure supply of LNG becomes paramount. Diversifying sources and securing long-term contracts are strategies to enhance energy security.

While Europe’s LNG demand is expected to peak and decline, Southeast Asia’s demand is projected to surge in the coming years. This shift represents a significant transformation in the global LNG landscape, with Southeast Asian countries playing a pivotal role in shaping the industry’s future. Meeting the challenges of price stability, infrastructure financing, and energy security will be essential to sustaining this growth and ensuring a prosperous and sustainable energy future for the region.

Reporting by Moe Khaled; Editing by Sarah White