1 More Competitor in the LNG Market

The bidding battle for Cove Energy has again brought East Africa into the limelight. Cove Energy owns an 8.5% stake in the oil-rich Rovuma Basin off the coast of Mozambique, which is the main reason why the U.K.-based explorer is generating so much interest.

The drama
Cove Energy put itself on the block in January and now has a line of suitors -- ranging from the colossal Royal Dutch Shell (NYS: RDS.A) to Indonesia's biggest oil firm PTT Exploration and Production, to India's behemoths ONGC and GAIL. The race is turning out to be quite dramatic, in fact. PTT has actually outbid Shell's offer of $310.60 (195 pounds) per share by offering $350.50 (220 pounds). And now the Indian companies might just put forward an offer better than PTT.

The bounties
So why are all of them in the fray? When we consider the bounties coming with the stake, the answer is not hard to figure out. The Rovuma field holds 15 trillion-30 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas and is Anadarko Petroleum's (NYS: APC) biggest gas find ever. In November, Anadarko, which holds a 36.5% stake in the field, doubled its previous reserve estimates. At the end of February, Anadarko had been stumbling upon more gas in the basin. Italy's Eni (NYS: E) , too, has discovered 22 TCF gas in the region and plans to make an investment of $50 billion, eyeing exports to Asia.

The opportunities
Anadarko plans to build an LNG terminal in the area. And I believe Shell, too, would be thinking along the same lines -- more so since it is a leading LNG producer. According to Deutsche Bank AG, the reserves can support two LNG plants for supply to the Asian markets. This brings us to the area's second advantage.

East Africa will serve as a new source of LNG supply to Asian markets, especially China and India, where the scope is massive. Let's take up China first. The second-largest economy in the world could shift its dependence on coal and move toward sustainable sources that are environmentally friendly. And not even 1% of the country's power is generated from gas. China may have to buy 44 million tons of LNG per year by 2020 to meet the burgeoning demand.

India has seen its natural gas consumption rise faster than other fuels. In the past four to five years, domestic production has not been able to keep up with demand, and the country has been increasingly looking at imports. From 189 million standard cubic meters per day, natural gas demand is poised to reach 473 MMSCMD by 2016-2017, according to government projections. India might import 47.5 million tons a year by 2015-16, which is a mind-blowing 250% higher than present levels.

Moreover, LNG prices in Asia and Europe are almost five times higher than in the U.S.

The takeaway
Projects in East Africa, some believe, will cost less than Australia. With all this in the offing, it is not surprising that oil companies are flocking to the region and stand to gain from Asia's LNG boom. So, Fools, keep a close watch on all the happenings around the block dubbed as "the most important natural gas fields discovered in the last 10 years'' by Anadarko CEO Jim Hackett. And to help you do that, we have a personalized free watchlist service just for you.

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At the time thisarticle was published Lavina Mangat does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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