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Strategies for Natural Gas & LNG

Strategies for Natural Gas & LNG

The natural gas and liquefied natural gas market is becoming more competitive, liquid, and sophisticated. In this context, companies across the LNG value chain must assess competitive positioning, exposure to market disruptions, and emerging opportunities.

The trends are clear. As we move from a tight market to a period of oversupply and increasing liquidity, prices and margins for liquefied natural gas are decreasing. Further, there has been a liberalization of end markets, making it more challenging to sign the long-term contracts that would ensure attractive returns. And thanks to liberalization, there is also a growing importance of both niche markets—with no capability for point-to-point sales—and emerging buyers in traditional markets.

LNG organizations should focus on three primary areas of strategy:

Improved Sales and Trading Strategies

International oil and gas companies sell about 50% of the total volume of LNG through portfolio sales rather traditional point-to-point sales. As a result, suppliers must develop sophisticated sales and trading strategies to address the needs of emerging buyers and improve their risk management processes as smaller, higher-risk contracts become more prevalent.

This sophisticated structure may include, among other things:

  • Favoring “delivered ex ships” (DES) sales, when the sale occurs at the destination, over “free on board” (FOB) sales, when the sale takes place at the point of origin
  • Seizing subscale DES markets through portfolio sales and delivering services that allow the capture of value beyond market standards, such as seasonal sales, volume flexibility, and cancellation services
  • Making the offering more sophisticated by introducing a broader array of contractual terms (such as spot-, short-, and mid-term contracts) and indexation structures (such as hybrid contracts that include oil products, the Henry Hub price, or the NBP price)
  • Participating actively in the spot market, including tenders in niche markets such as Kuwait, Egypt, Argentina, and Brazil
  • Adopting sophisticated trading capabilities that leverage expertise gathered in liquid markets, such as Europe or the US

Beyond defining a clear natural gas and LNG strategy to compete in the current market environment, it is of the utmost importance to gather the right organizational structure and set of capabilities to implement this strategy and act efficiently in the long run. This means having strong customer relationship management, expertise in contract origination and renegotiation, and adequate pricing of value-added services, as well as optimized risk management and supply and logistics operations.

Development of More Complex Export Ventures

Today’s market conditions force sellers to go beyond the pure selling of gas molecules. In an environment of LNG oversupply, players need to lock in demand and achieve higher prices through vertical integration by considering selective downstream investments that can support the development of new markets. A further integration across the value chain requires the design of much more complex ventures.

Transforming export ventures starts with assessing potential markets and identifying the attractiveness of incremental natural gas and LNG exports to different segments within potential receiving markets. Next, the suppliers define the necessary infrastructure requirements of the export venture, as well as the core contractual structure and partnership strategy. Finally, it’s key to assess the business model, financials, and strategic targets of the integrated export venture.

Cost Reductions

In recent years, the industry has been focused on LNG project execution, rather than cost management. This has resulted in:

  • One-of-a-kind projects and limited standardization across projects
  • Limited competition among suppliers, especially in key components such as refrigeration compressors and large heat exchangers
  • Improvements in technology that are mainly based on scale and thermal efficiency but do not generate significant cost savings
  • Limited cooperation among developers
  • A focus on project execution rather than lean approaches

LNG players should launch only those projects that are competitive under current pricing and postpone any with very high costs. They should also implement structural cost-saving measures, such as standardized, modular approaches to plant construction; the fostering of competition among suppliers; and the implementation of lean approaches throughout the development process.

Meet Some of BCG’s Experts in Natural Gas & LNG

BCG’s consultants and industry experts focusing on the natural gas and LNG sectors partner with leading global organizations to uncover insights and develop solutions that bring competitive advantage. These are our experts on this topic.

  • Oil and gas strategy
  • Energy marketing, trading, and regulatory strategy
  • Internationalization and growth in oil and gas
  • M&A in oil and gas
  • Gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) strategy
  • Long-term gas and LNG contract negotiation
  • Engineering, procurement, and construction
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Market entry
  • Operating model design
  • Contract negotiation
  • Upstream oil and gas
  • Upstream and downstream oil and gas
  • Refinery operations
  • Shale gas
  • Large-scale transformation
  • Upstream and midstream oil and gas
  • Utilities
  • Large scale transformations
  • Organizational redesign and change management
  • Strategy development in oil and gas
  • Energy markets analysis
  • Climate change mitigation
Oil & Gas

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