Globally, LPG is expected to have an aggregate growth rate of 3% between 2019 and 2023. Where does Oman stand in terms of this and the energy transition that will push LPG growth?
Although LPG is considered by some as a sunset industry, looking at the regional dynamics, especially markets in Asia and Africa, there are still many consumers who are reliant on coal and charcoal. As such, there is a lot of potential in delivering LPG to those consumers and markets that cannot access it currently because of portability and infrastructure issues. LPG will keep growing in the near future. Recent US-China developments have also resulted in many Middle Eastern supplies going to China and other Asian markets that were previously being fed by US supplies, which will continue the growth of the Middle East's LPG industry. Countries like Bangladesh have grown 100% YoY, while Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar will eventually open up. Oman has traditionally supplied the west coast of India and Pakistan. Now that Salalah LPG will allow Oman Gas Company to have its LPG supplies go up in 2020, the remaining 90-95% of the product not destined for local consumption will target Yemen and North Africa.
Would you map out the latest developments in the gas market in Oman both in terms of growth and segmentation?
The Omani market here has not witnessed a significant growth in LPG consumption considering that it is largely a cooking fuel used by households and has limited usage by industry, all because of the market size not being that large. The population of Oman is about 4 million, half expatriates and half locals, with an annual growth of nearly 4% YoY, which is the kind of growth we generally see from a domestic standpoint. New industries are coming up, but not in a substantial way. We have been growing our business, but local business has been pretty stable. The current supply chain model is pretty organized and working well. The National Gas Company has been in discussions with the government for a long time to revise prices and brand cylinders. Unfortunately, we do not have this in Oman yet, unlike most of our neighbors. For example, in the UAE, India, and Pakistan they all have branded cylinders. Each company has its own color cylinder that they are supposed to fill, maintain, and replace.
Are there likely to be major projects on the infrastructural side that could reshape the Omani market or on the export side with the free zones and port developments?
Duqm Port represents a major steppingstone to export products, especially into African markets. Natural gas availability is also increasing in Oman, but every fuel source will continue to exist. In terms of households, Oman spreads horizontally, not vertically, which makes connecting supplies via piped gas networks more difficult and commercially not very feasible. Those networks have not gained much popularity compared to other cities where linking up households via a gas network in large high-rise buildings brings commercial and operational efficiencies.