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LNG sucking up interstate gas, lifting local prices to meet export demand


Queensland’s LNG companies are producing at record levels to meet Asian export demand, forcing domestic gas to be imported from southern states, which has lifted wholesale prices in Brisbane.


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While that was happening, coal seam gas well drilling has slumped to its lowest-ever level of fewer than 100 bores in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, gas prices in Brisbane were the highest of the eastern states in the first quarter, according to a report from the Australian Energy Regulator.

“Notably, prices in northern markets were on average $0.46/GJ higher than southern markets in the first quarter, a growing price differential from $0.22/GJ last quarter. This is the second consecutive quarter that northern prices have exceeded southern prices, which has not happened since 2017,’’ the AER report said.

According to the AER, national prices for electricity continued to tumble in the March quarter mainly due to lower than normal temperatures and overwhelming increase in cheap, renewable energy.

“On the supply side, low-priced wind and grid-scale solar generation continue to put downward pressure on prices,’’ AER said.

Its report said new entry into the market for the quarter was 568 MW with six new wind and solar farms entering in NSW and Victoria.

“But more significantly, the 2.3 GW of wind and solar farms that entered the market in the second half of 2020 have been building up to full capacity over the quarter.

“A further 1.5 GW of registered capacity is expected to enter in the remainder of 2021, including the delayed Stockyard Hill wind farm (532 MW) in Victoria.’’

Significantly, AER said the higher polluting brown coal was displacing black coal, which is the dominant source of electricity in Queensland.

“Average black coal generation fell to its lowest ever first-quarter level and average gas generation fell to its lowest ever level since 2005,’’ AER said.

AER said low wholesale prices were expected to continue, with contract prices for the next two to three years sitting below $60/MWh in all regions.

Coal generators were being forced into lower prices and hydro generation also offered its capacity at prices comparable to black coal.

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