New LNG projects will start going ahead, but green credentials to be closely watched: execs

LONDON (Reuters) - Companies will press ahead with some new liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects despite pressure on lenders to divert funding from fossil fuels, industry executives said at the annual European Gas Conference, but scrutiny of their environmental standards will be tight.

Several LNG projects have been delayed or cancelled in recent years due to weak gas prices and worries about oversupply.

While prices have recovered somewhat as Asian demand picks up, lenders also face growing calls to starve fossil fuel projects of finance due to pressure to meet climate change targets.

Mark Gyetvay, chief financial officer and deputy chairman of the management board of Russian gas producer Novatek, told the conference, held virtually, that by the end of the decade, the LNG market will be 150 million tonnes short on the supply side.

“That needs to be addressed, so some FIDs (final investment decisions) will be taken, but not as much as everyone wants,” he said, due to international efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero.

Gyetvay said a gas price of $7-$8 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) is “reasonable” for suppliers and buyers while taking FIDs on LNG projects. Prices are currently at $8.90 per mmBtu. [LNG/]

Katan Hirachand, managing director at Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking, said there will be much more scrutiny from lenders who will be looking at projects’ ability to cut carbon emissions across the whole value chain.

“It is not black and white. Certain projects will go ahead and some will not,” he said.

“If projects are structured well they can attract capital. Whether that is the traditional types of capital we have seen in the last 20 years remains to be seen.”

Eric Festa, vice president of LNG assets at French major Total, said a lot of work can be done on designing new LNG projects so that they have a lower carbon footprint.

This includes using electric compressors powered by renewable energy, reducing emissions from flaring gas, and eventually injecting green hydrogen - produced using sustainable power - into turbines as a fuel.

“There will be new FIDs... but they will need to be the best projects in terms of lowering greenhouse gas emissions, cost and being resilient to a volatile market environment,” he added.

(This story refiles to add reference to the annual European Gas Conference)

Reporting by Nina Chestney and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Jan Harvey