GLOBAL LNG-Prices ease further on tepid demand, healthy supply
Asian spot liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices have further receded this week from multi-year seasonal highs due to lacklustre demand from well-stocked Asian utilities and healthy supply. Spot prices for November LNG-AS delivery in Asia have fallen to as low as $11.10 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), down 40 cents from the week before, industry sources said. Cargoes for the second half of October are likely valued at $10.70 to $11.00 per mmBtu. Traders said demand had declined in the period between summer and winter and that Asian utilities were not yet ready to buy for the winter. More cargoes are heading to Europe, another indicator of low demand from Asia, and supply is healthy. Rising crude oil prices and spot demand from Japan, South Korea and China ahead of the peak winter heating season had pushed LNG prices to seasonal highs at the start of this month. However, Asian utilities seem well-stocked going into October and November. Japan is expected to experience warmer-than-average temperatures from October to December, forecasts show. Nuclear availability in Japan could also improve as utility Shikoku Electric Power Co moves closer to restarting its only operable nuclear reactor, after a court rejected a lawsuit that would have prevented operation of the nuclear unit. However, parts of South Korea and China are expected to have temperatures below the seasonal norm, which could help lift demand in coming weeks. SUPPLY Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands expect at least seven LNG tankers over the next two weeks or so, more than in previous weeks and a sign that Asian buyers are well-stocked. The UK gas price for November is at 76.10 pence per therm but could go up again due to a colder-than-expected week ahead. Further gains could result in the Asian spot price having to rise to keep a premium to northwest Europe to attract volumes from the Atlantic basin, Thomson Reuters analysts said. Supply is quite robust even though some maintenance is going on at LNG plants. U.S. Dominion Energy Inc started a scheduled three-week maintenance outage on Sept. 21 at the Cove Point LNG export terminal in Maryland. Planned maintenance is ongoing at Oman LNG. U.S. tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods and retaliatory taxes by Beijing on $60 billion of U.S. products, including LNG, kicked off on Monday. U.S. exporters including LNG suppliers would “certainly” be hurt, but Beijing’s retaliation would provide opportunities to other LNG-exporting countries, China’s Vice Commerce Minister Wang Yi said, adding that Australia is an important source of the fuel for China. Analysts said they see no short-term effect on LNG pricing. Elsewhere, India said it would start operating a new LNG import facility in western Gujarat state by the end of October but it would take around a year to reach full capacity. This week, Qatar announced plans to boost its LNG production capacity, by adding a fourth production line to raise its output capacity from the North Field to 110 million tonnes a year, by the end of 2023 or early 2024. This is an increase of around 43 percent from its current production capacity of 77 million tonnes a year.