An initial non-binding agreement for Petronet LNG Ltd to invest USD 2.5 billion in US energy upstart Tellurian’s LNG project in Louisiana in return for gas supplies for 40 years has lapsed, the CEO of the Indian firm said on Wednesday.
The deal, which was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Houston in September 2019, was billed as one of the largest foreign investments in the US to ship shale gas abroad.
Petronet, India’s largest gas importer, has opened talks with suppliers such as Qatar for sourcing natural gas in its liquid form (LNG) to meet the growing energy needs of the country, its Managing Director & CEO A K Singh told reporters on a call.
The firm’s long-term deal to import 7.5 million tonnes per annum of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar ends in March 2028, and the company has time till December 2023, to decide on extending it, he said.
Petronet had on September 21, 2019, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for purchase of up to 5 million tonnes per annum of LNG from Tellurian Inc’s proposed Driftwood LNG terminal for 40 years. The deal was concurrent with Petronet making an equity investment of USD 2.5 billion for an 18 per cent stake in Driftwood.
“The MoU was not extended. As of today, there is no MoU with us,” Petronet Managing Director & CEO A K Singh told reporters on a call. The initial pact, he said, has expired.
The September MoU contemplated the conclusion of the transaction by March 31, 2020, but the timeline was first extended to May 31, 2020, and then to December 31, 2020.
Asked about the reasons for the non-conclusion of the deal or the MoU not being extended, Singh said this was not because of Petronet. “We did not get a request from their (Tellurian’s) side for an extension,” he said but refused to elaborate.
In November last year, the firm’s Director-Finance V K Mishra had stated that LNG was available at a throwaway price and “there appears to be no need to invest in liquefication terminals (which convert gas into LNG).”
Petronet’s promoters too had questioned the rationale of making an equity investment and locking in such large volumes from one supplier for a 40-year period.
To satisfy promoters as well as test if LNG from Tellurian would be competitive, Petronet invited bids to buy 1 million tonnes per annum of LNG for 10 years, officials aware of the matter said. Tellurian was among the 13 suppliers that quoted in the tender but did not meet price expectations. Singh said India needs suppliers who can meet the price expectations of users.
Some sectors are price sensitive like the power which can afford a gas price of no more than USD 5-6 per million British thermal unit as against the current market rate of USD 10, he said adding where ever LNG replaces liquid fuel, price isn’t an issue but viability becomes an issue when it has to compete with renewable energy sources. LNG in the transport sector could be an option as it can afford the current rates, he said.
“We are in discussions with suppliers like Qatar for additional LNG volumes,” he said adding Petronet is expanding the capacity of the Dahej LNG terminal by 5 million tonnes, planning a new east coast terminal and there was unused capacity available at its Kochi terminal too. Singh said gas demand in India, which got severely impacted due to lockdowns imposed in several parts of the country to curb the second wave of COVID infections, is likely to bounce back in this fiscal.
Petronet managed to sell gas it imports on long-term contracts barring one cargo (shipload) which was deferred to June, but short-term or purchases from the spot market were impacted because of demand not being there, he said.
The firm’s 17.5 million tonnes a year import terminal at Dahej in Gujarat operated at about 80 per cent capacity in April/May and has now recovered to 87 per cent in the current month and will reach pre-COVID levels later this year, he said.
The 5 million tonnes Kochi import terminal in Kerala is able to use only 1.5 million tonnes capacity in absence of pipelines to take the fuel to consumers. NNNN