Asia should set up a regional spot market for natural gas trading to reduce its high acquisition costs, the International Energy Agency (IEA) chief said yesterday. Pointing to Shanghai — which established a domestic natural gas spot trading platform in July — IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven said the whole region needs a similar platform. “I think it’s of the utmost importance that in Asia there needs... to be developed a spot market for gas because it’s not there at the moment,” she said at the international energy forum in Singapore. “Japan imported LNG at $18 MMBtu ($18 per million British thermal units) this summer, compared to $3 MMBtu prices in the US and $10 to $12 in Europe,” she added. “And this considerable price is raising questions, in Europe and Asia, about appropriate gas pricing.” Van der Hoeven said a natural gas spot market would allow prices to be set “depending on rate of supply and demand fundamentals” without being influenced by other markets such as crude. An IEA report issued in June estimated that global natural gas consumption will rise 17% to 3.94tn cubic metres by 2017 from 2011, with Asia powering demand growth. “Asia will be by far the fastest-growing region, driven primarily by China, which will emerge as the third largest gas user by 2013,” the report said. The US is currently the top consumer followed by Russia, according to the IEA. Despite Shanghai’s head start in its natural gas spot trading market, Van der Hoeven said Singapore was “in a good position” to be the first to establish a similar platform that serves the region. “Its key location, experience with oil trading, advanced institutional development, they are all major advantages,” she said. Singapore is already a major Asian oil refining and trading hub. Talking about oil, she said that most of the new oil demand in the next five years will come from Asia, the Middle East and former Soviet Union states. “All this means a greater Asian dependence on the import of crude, often from regions considered politically risky,” she said. “Asia is the main market outlet for Middle East crude so Middle East disruptions will touch Asia first,” she told delegates attending the energy conference.