(EnergyAsia, June 30 2011, Thursday) — Australia will overtake Qatar as the world’s top liquefied natural gas (LNG) producer and exporter by 2020, earning a whopping A$36 billion in revenue a year, said the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In proclaiming that natural gas is entering a “golden age”, the Paris-based agency anointed Australia, which earned just A$7.2 billion from LNG exports in 2009, as its new king.

The revenue projection is based on forecast that Australia will have raised its LNG exports to 85 billion cubic metres a year by then after successfully tripling its production capacity, said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol.

Dr Birol expects Australia to remain the world’s leading LNG supplier through at least 2035.

If his prediction holds out, it will represent a stunning rise for Australia, which was only the fourth in the LNG-export pecking order behind Qatar, Indonesia and Malaysia last year.

The IEA said Australia will still have to overcome various challenges to make it to the top.

It will have to ensure continued timely and sufficient flow of investments, supportive government policies, and the ability to overcome the high costs posed by manpower shortages and project delays.

The IEA recently released a new report, “Are We Entering a Golden Age of Gas?”  as part of the World Energy Outlook 2011 series. It expects the world’s consumption of natural gas to increase by more than 50% from 2010 to 2035.