Oil and natural gas producers cannot catch a break of late it seems. A few years after the onset of the natural gas glut, Europe is experiencing a similar phenomenon with Russia and Norway using tactics akin to those used by the Saudis with oil. The result is rock bottom prices on natural gas that are benefiting utility companies across the continent. The effective result of these actions is also hitting LNG terminal development economics in the U.S. and minimizing growth of imports from Qatar.
In a remarkable development, gas in the UK has fallen 37 percent in the last year just as Cheniere Energy has started offering exports of U.S. LNG to Europe. While Russia and Norway both deny specifically targeting market share through their business approach, it is clear that national firms in both countries are low cost producers that are proving to be the last men standing as prices continue to tumble. Neither country’s producers need to take specific actions to drive market share – all they have to do is be willing to sell at the market’s defined prices and as those prices fall, natural volume declines from other producers leads to increased share.
While there are still geopolitical reasons to avoid buying Russian gas, increasingly European firms are finding themselves choosing between a more expensive but politically palpable supplier in the form of the U.S., and the cheaper but odious Russian suppliers. This dichotomy is becoming increasingly untenable for many buyers who would otherwise prefer to buy from the U.S. The problem for Russia of course is that its market share is only sustainable so long as it gives up its leverage on natural gas both politically and in the form of price. As soon as Russia seeks to exploit its position as a supplier, buyers may turn to the U.S. again. In that sense then, contestability of the market and the threat of entrants matters as much as actual competition in the market....MOREHT: Wolf Street