In the coming decade, Northeast Asia will become a major market for gas, led by China, which plans to quadruple its gas demand by 2030.
Securing stable and affordable imports will be essential to plans to reduce carbon intensity in China and Korea, and potentially to fill the gap left by the nuclear shutdown in Japan.
Negotiations for piping Russian gas to China have remained in deadlock for a decade but new pipeline routes to take gas to South Korea through North Korea or China could move forward in 2013, with security implications for all sides.
Several factors are altering the market context, including prospects for unconventional gas production in China and the potential for future supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from East Africa and the United States.
The next few months will be crucial for decisions on the entry of Russian pipeline gas to China. Missing the opportunity will deprive both countries of a win–win solution to their energy and development problems, and increase future global LNG prices.
Closer collaboration between Russian and Chinese national oil companies and a gas-importers union between China, Japan and South Korea would support an equitable pipeline deal and lay the foundations for regional energy security.