The future of LNG in the industrial gas market was analysed thoroughly on Tuesday as GasTech returned to the UK this week.

London was where the conference and exhibition first began in 1972 and, although LNG existed during that time, it was no doubt not discussed and critically assessed as it was today.

Noel Tomnay, Head of Global Gas Research for Wood Mackenzie, spoke about the bear or bull concerning LNG. The price bears expect low-cost North American shale gas growth and corresponding LNG exports to spread the contagion of low prices to other markets. At the same time, they anticipate that wider unconventional gas growth in China, Latin America, Europe and elsewhere will depress global gas prices everywhere.

The price bulls believe that gas demand will outstrip supply availability, driven primarily by the Asian markets. They say that the rapid unconventional development does not exist in key markets outside North America and that its growth will be slow. They expect high cost gas to be a defining feature of global gas supply, major resource holders to retain price influence and gas prices to just get higher.

“Australia will have nine LNG terminals constructed soon, which can be expanded in size if required,” said Noel Tomnay, adding, “Russia is looking to expand (in LNG) as well.”

“But the amount (of LNG) found in exploration in East Africa and the East Mediterranean (is far greater than) what Australia is doing and will leave a legacy.”

“Extensive infrastructure is being developed in Asia and in North America, LNG will be shipped to Asia via the Panama Canal.”

“Competition will bring prices down – in balance we will have a more competitive market which will bring prices down. It’s a very exciting global gases market.”

Interestingly the Director of the LNG division of Mitsui OSK Bulk Shipping, Mike Rowley, considered the outlook of the Japanese and Asian markets.

In 2011, following the devastating East Earthquake, Japan imported approximately 78.5m tonnes of LNG – up 12% compared to the previous year, and from a record 17 different suppliers. The demand for shipping to supply Japan increased by over a quarter compared to 2010, as the country became increasingly reliant upon exporters in the Atlantic basin. This was due to the country’s reluctance to revert back to using nuclear to supply energy following the disaster experienced from the earthquake. By comparison, shipping demand in the rest of the world’s LNG importing regions grew by seven percent.

Mike Rowley suggested Japan’s need for LNG could, if forecasts are correct, “grow 17% by 2025.”

Philip Olivier, President of GDF SUEZ Global LNG echoed the unknown appetite of Japan – regarding LNG.

“2011 was a tragic year with the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan. LNG is acting as one of the replacement fuels for the lost nuclear capacity and the country’s LNG imports have raised to 79.1m tonnes,” he said.

“Between 2012 and 2025 growth in LNG in Asia and the Middle East will grow to 105m tonnes. Japan’s appetite is unknown and we may have under estimated amount of LNG that the country will need.”

The conference and event finishes on Thursday.