SINGAPORE, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Southeast Asia may be the next growth market for energy comparable to China and India, industry players said at an energy industry forum on Monday.
Fatih Birol, chief economist of the inter-governmental International Energy Agency, said that people may be talking about Southeast Asia as the next emerging market for energy, just as people have been talking about China and India.
The ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has a combined population of about 600 million.
Put together, the three markets are really gradually "shifting the center of gravity of the global energy market" towards Asia, he said at the Singapore International Energy Week.
Indeed the region is also on the radar of global energy exporters like Qatargas and potential exporters like the United States.
Sheikh Khalid Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, chief executive officer of Qatargas, the world's largest producer and exporter of natural gas, mentioned the region in addition to traditional importers of energy like Japan and China.
The company delivered its first ever LNG (liquefied natural gas) cargo to Singapore in March this year.
Singapore, sitting on the world's most important sea route for the transport of energy resources, launched its LNG terminal in March this year with an initial throughput capacity of 3.5 million tons per annum (mtpa).
It is expected to increase to 6 mtpa at the end of this year with the completion of a third tank. A fourth tank has been planned to further expand the terminal, which will boost its capacity to 9 mtpa by 2016, said S Iswaran, minister in the Prime Minister's Office and second minister for home affairs and second minister for trade and industry.
Economies in the region are expected to diversify their energy sources to include more cleaner energies, with natural gas as an important option, the minister said.
Amos J Hochstein, deputy assistant secretary for energy diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State also voiced his opinion for what opportunities the "unexpected energy abundance" of the United States may bring to other parts of the world.
The United States has been forecast to become a net exporter of gas by 2020 thanks to technological breakthroughs in shale gas.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the amount of unconventional gas that is technically recoverable globally now stands at 7.3 trillion cubic feet. At current rates of global gas consumption, this is sufficient to meet about 80 years of demand. But so far the United States have been the one leading the technological breakthroughs, while other countries with potentials are working hard to explore and develop their own shale gas resources.
"The shale gas revolution has already had an impact on global gas trade flows, contracts and prices by fostering greater competition. Further developments of unconventional gas will reinforce such trends -- which is important to Asia as a major net importer of energy," Iswaran said.