In 2021, global gas demand surged 4.5% and recorded the largest volumetric growth on record, with an annual gain of 173 bcm that more than offset the 2020 2% decline. This strong rebound took place in the context of a faster than expected economic recovery following the lifting of lockdowns and a strong growth of global energy demand. Both economic, geopolitical and weather factors contributed to the growing and unprecedented tightness of the global gas market. They led to an explosion of Asian and European spot prices to historic highs.
A once-in-a lifetime growth over this decade
Despite the pandemic and its impact on supply chains and fuel demand in the transportation sector, the RNG sector has been resilient. Global RNG production was up 20% in 2020 to 5 billion cubic metres (bcm). It has more than doubled since 2015. There were 1,161 biogas upgrading facilities operating in the world at the end of 2020, with a production capacity of 800,000 Nm3/h (or 6.7 bcm/y), ensuring healthy growth going forward. The market remains dominated by Europe, but the United States, which became the world’s leading producer in 2019, ahead of Germany, continues to register significant growth. In other regions, biomethane production is still limited but is taking off in Brazil, Canada, China and India.
In the first quarter of 2022, European and Asian gas prices remained at stratospheric levels in the context of the energy and geopolitical crisis. Market conditions got relatively calmer in January and February as market fundamentals improved, especially due to warming weather. But since the end of February, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its related concerns for the security of European energy supply triggered a stratospheric rise of European gas prices, which reached new record highs at the beginning of March. Since then, both European and Asian prices have slipped back but have remained extremely volatile in response to the evolution of the geopolitical context. European prices have most of the time retained a premium over Asia, attracting uncommitted cargoes from the Atlantic Basin, especially from the United States. Global LNG supply increased on the back of growing US LNG exports to Europe, while Asian LNG demand weakened amid a warming weather and a Covid revovery in China.