Australia and Indonesia will probably beat Qatar to win the first contract to supply liquefied natural gas to China, an accord analysts say may generate up to $400 million a year over two decades for companies such as BP and the Royal Dutch Shell Group. China is expected to pick Australia's $6 billion North West Shelf venture, owned by six companies including Shell, as one supplier of three million tons of LNG a year to Guangdong province starting in 2006, analysts say. Indonesia's Tangguh project, which is being headed by BP, will likely be the other supplier.
“Qatar's chances of winning are limited because of the high costs of transporting the LNG to China,” said Gordon Kwan, an oil analyst with HSBC Securities in Hong Kong. China National Offshore Oil, which controls the Guangdong LNG terminal, may also favor the North West Shelf as it wants to invest in Australia's oil and gas fields, Kwan said.
Winning the contract will give Australia access to the world's fastest growing LNG market as demand slows in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. It will add to Australia's $1.1 billion earned from LNG sales each year as Beijing encourages use of gas to reduce pollution and lower the country's dependence on imported oil.