Equinor Expands LNG Trading, Eyes Europe and Asia Deals, Senior Exec Says

(Reuters) — Norwegian energy group Equinor plans to expand its LNG trading business and is in talks with a number of potential buyers in Europe and Southeast Asia, a top official told Reuters.

The oil and gas producer posted higher than expected first quarter profit on Thursday, citing high production in its native Norway, strong operational performance and robust results from LNG trading.

LNG is seen as an integral part of the transition to net-zero emissions by 2050 and will be required for decades to come, especially in Asia, the top-energy importing and consuming region and the likely driver of global demand until then.

"Asia is very relevant for us as some of these growing economies are going to be big energy consumers in the future and they will have their form of transition," Helge Haugane, Equinor's senior vice president, gas and power, said on the sidelines of Flame Gas and LNG conference in Amsterdam.

Imports of the sea-borne fuel have also replaced a substantial amount of Russian pipeline gas supplies to Europe and in 2023 the region became the world's biggest importer of LNG, surpassing China.

"All the way up to 2050 and beyond, Europe will still need gas," Haugane added.

Equinor in 2022 overtook Russia's Gazprom as Europe's biggest natural gas supplier as the invasion of Ukraine upended decades-long energy ties.

Haugane said Equinor traded 6 million metric tons of LNG in 2023.

"Our mantra is value over volume, hence we do not have a specific volume target but we do believe that LNG is a growing market which is going to be crucial for the energy transition, and where we will find opportunities," he added.

Haugane expects more price volatility going forward than in the past, which he said bodes well for trading opportunities.

Profit at Equinor's Market, Midstream and Processing (MMP) division, which includes its trading business, fell to $887 million from $1.3 billion a year ago.

Still, that exceeded Equinor's own guidance of $400 million to $800 million, thanks to strong results from liquids and LNG trading.

LNG trading and bets on strong Asian demand have been major contributors to spectacular profits at energy giants including Shell SHEL.L, and TotalEnergies.

Equinor signed a 15-year agreement in February to supply LNG to India's Deepak Fertilizers.

Haugane said the company could look at sourcing more third-party LNG volumes in the future. It has already contracted around 3.5 million metric tons from the United States' Cheniere from 2026.

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