Markets

Natural gas is forecast to overtake coal as the predominant fuel in power generation in the U.S. by 2025. Gas will become the world's No. 2 overall fuel source due to its abundant supply and the political backing for less carbon emission intensive gas-fired power plants, according to the latest long-term outlook published by ExxonMobil Corp today.

More regulations under Dodd Frank, MiFID and EMIR may prompt financial trading houses to shy away from commodities. Trading on less liquid market hubs for gas and electricity may take a battering once the new regulation comes into force in 2012.

"Speculators might exit, liquidity might take a plunge and trading – particularly in less liquid commodity markets – might be down to the utilities again," Louis Caron, global executive lead, energy and commodity risk at RiskAdvisory/SAS Group told 'Gas-to-Power Journal' in an interview today.

RWE has confirmed to 'Gas-to-Power Journal' today that is considering divesting stakes in German power plants and splitting-off and selling of parts of the company.

Annual gas demand of natural gas in seven core European countries - UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands and Belgium – is forecast to plunge by fall by 44 Bcm year –on-year, or 10.7%, to 370 Bcm in 2011, Deutsche Bank said in a report.

European utilities are profiting from a rebound in a power prices and production margins, Societe Generale commodity analysts said, estimating that between 20% and 50% of hedge for 2012 has been achieved by higher generation margins post Fukushima. "Some utilities have delayed their hedging strategy and will thus benefit from higher margins post-Fukushima that should flow into the accounts as soon as 2012," the bank said in a recent report.

International Energy Agency's Executive Director, Maria Van der Hoeven sees "golden prospects for natural gas. However she urged the gas industry in Riyadh today to step-up security standards in unconventional gas production.

Coal is forecast to increase in its competitiveness against gas, Société Générale said in a research note on Tuesday. "Demand for imports [of coal] will in our view keep on increasing, even if more slowly," analyst Emmanuel Fages said with reference to the expected recession in the Eurozone throughout 2012.

The gas value chain is integrating as upstream companies such as Gazprom and Taqa have an incentive to venture beyond their midstream activities into gas-to-power. "Upstream players - producers of oil and gas – have an incentive to go downstream," Sybren Hettinga, head of European gas structuring at Cargill, told 'Gas-to-Power Journal' in an interview.

The Russian gas giant Gazprom and Essen-based RWE are in negotiations to form a joint venture (JV) on power generation, an RWE spokesperson confirmed to 'Gas-to-Power Journal' today. "We do not comment on the status of negations," he said, adding joint projects in gas-to-power would be "one of the options".

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) has alerted grid operators of the risk of reduced margins of available power generation overload in Europe this winter. ENTSO-E published its Winter Outlook 2011-2012 and Summer Review 2011 on Thursday this week, indicating that under severe conditions, December and January could be the most stressed months of the winter for security of electricity supply.

The power generation sector is forecast to be the main driver for global gas demand, according to projections of the International Energy Agency (IAE). "Global gas demand will be driven by power generation", IEA analyst, Warner de Kate, said at the EMART energy conference in Lyon.

Gas markets are a different animals than power markets, so the integration of European gas trading hubs cannot replicate the integration of European power markets, panalists at a gas trading session the EMART Energy conference agreed on today. "Financially, it has already happened; physically, however, gas market integration works different from electricity markets," APX-ENDEX CEO, Bert den Ouden, said at the conference in Lyon.

LNG exports from the U.S. are likely to go to China, where new U.S. LNG imports will be in a price competition with not-yet contracted gas from Russia via the proposed Altai pipeline and with LNG imports from upcoming Australian liquefaction projects, Thierry Bros, senior analyst at Societee Generale said.

The lack of incentive to build new gas-fired power plants may cause problems for balancing supply and demand in European electricity markets, Evariste Nyouki, head of economic research at GDF SUEZ Trading told 'Gas-to-Power Journal' at the sidelines of the EMART Energy conference in Lyon today.

"New gas-fired plants are needed but the market is not prepared to pay for it," Nyouki said, arguing it is only economical for upstream companies to invest in new gas plants at the current price levels. His reasoning is that Gazprom has the means to free up enough CAPEX in order to build new gas-fired power plants in Western Europe, while utilities currently do not have an incentive to do so.

Dan Smith, Head of Corporate Development at Trayport, has cast doubt over the European Commission's drive to introduce more stringent financial regulation.

"The European Commission supports the creation of liquidity in the wholesale energy markets via the 3rd Energy Package. However, another potential outcome is that the introduction of financial regulation could have a negative impact on liquidity in the wholesale energy markets," said Smith told 'Gas-to-Power Journal' today.

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