Japan, South Korea , China, East Asia and the world’s largest buyers of LNG all took lower volumes last year.

Buying fell by a collective 7mn tons or almost 5% (see graph 1) amid lacklustre demand. Even if demand stabilizes this year – by no means a foregone conclusion – a pipeline of new supply coming onstream, from Australia and the US in particular, means that for Middle East producers, starting with Qatar, the competition is becoming increasingly palpable.

JAPAN:...