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Oversupply has 'fundamentally changed' the natural gas market — but it won't last long

  • "It has clearly been driven by oversupply but this won't necessarily last that long amid a burgeoning demand for LNG," Oil Search CEO Peter Botten said
  • American shale drillers upended the energy industry after years of booming production — and the U.S. wants to sell even more of its excess gas abroad
A man looks as the world's biggest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tanker DUHAIL as she crosses through the Suez Canal. The Qatari tanker, which was built to transfer LNG from Qatar to Europe and the U.S., is on her first trip ever from Qatar to Spain.
Reuters
A man looks as the world's biggest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tanker DUHAIL as she crosses through the Suez Canal. The Qatari tanker, which was built to transfer LNG from Qatar to Europe and the U.S., is on her first trip ever from Qatar to Spain.

A global liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply glut may soon be offset by a rapid uptick in demand, Oil Search CEO Peter Botten said Wednesday.

"The market has fundamentally changed in the past few years," Botten said at the Abu Dhabi Petroleum Exhibition Conference (ADIPEC).

"It has clearly been driven by oversupply but this won't necessarily last that long amid a burgeoning demand for LNG."

American shale drillers upended the energy industry after years of booming production — and the U.S. wants to sell even more of its excess gas abroad.

On Tuesday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said the U.S. was on course to become the leading global gas exporter by the mid-2020s. In the energy watchdog's flagship publication, the IEA said U.S. LNG was also accelerating a major structural shift towards more flexible international gas markets.

The U.S. shale revolution paved the way for a three-year oil price downturn that sent crude spiraling from more than $100 a barrel in 2014 to about $60 today. That has piled pressure on the oil-dependent economies of OPEC nations and forced a round of production cuts this year.

Meanwhile, China — the world's third-largest gas buyer — is importing more LNG as the government looks to become less dependent on dirty coal as part of its drive to clear the skies.

Martin Bureau | AFP | Getty Images

'Hugely exciting' time for LNG

Speaking at a separate conference at ADIPEC on Monday, Michael Stoppard, energy analyst at IHS Markit, said total annual LNG output is on track to more than double from 270 million metric tons to 650 million metric tons by 2040.

"Demand for gas over the next 15 and 20 years makes being in the gas industry a hugely exciting place to be," Oil Search's Botten said.

By 2040, OPEC estimates oil and natural gas will still account for more than half of the world's total power generation.

— CNBC's Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.