Europe Remains Top Destination for US LNG
Europe last month remained the top destination for shipments of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG), according to Refinitiv data, outpacing exports to Asia for the second month in a row.
About two-thirds of U.S. LNG volumes went to Europe last month, compared to around 61% in December when sky-high European prices and demand drove U.S. LNG exports to a record, Refinitiv data showed.
In both months, a lack of supply drove demand and led to cargoes being re-routed from other destinations. The crisis over the Ukraine has highlighted Europe's dependency on Russia for much of its natural gas and spurred buyers to seek supplies elsewhere.
LNG in Europe last month traded about $30 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) amid concerns that cheaper Russian gas supplies were failing to keep up with demand in a standoff over Ukraine.
This week, the European LNG benchmark traded on the Dutch exchange cooled, falling to $27.59 per mmBtu, below the Japan Korea Marker (JKM) price for Asia spot gas at $29.12 per mmBtu, according to consultancy Rystad Energy.
Asian tanks full
"It sends a signal that (Asia) had full tanks and were not expecting to be big buyers," said Jason Feer, global head of business intelligence at LNG consultancy and shipbroker Poten & Partners.
Total U.S. LNG exports to all destinations were 7.3 million tonnes per annum (mtpa), up from a record 7.14 mpta in December, preliminary Refinitiv data showed. The total includes 13 LNG tankers that have not signaled a destination.
Warmer-than-expected weather in Asia and healthy stockpiles last month helped swing LNG cargoes to Europe. China's Unipec, the trading arm of state-owned crude oil and natural gas company Sinopec Corp, had offered to sell up to 45 cargoes of LNG for deliveries this year.
Around 13% of U.S. LNG volumes shipped last month went to Asia, down from about 25% in December, according to preliminary data from Refinitiv. Shipments to Latin America accounted for about 9% of the month's volume, the data showed.
LNG demand overall may cool as the northern hemisphere winter heating season comes to an end, said Ross Wyeno, an analyst at S&P Global Platts.
“We might see prices ease into the spring," Wyeno said.
The Ukraine crisis, however, poses a risk for global gas markets with a potential cut off of Russian supplies to Europe. But the prospect of Russia cutting off all pipeline gas supplies to Europe is "a highly unlikely scenario," Wyeno said.
(Reuters - Reporting by Marcy de Luna; Editing by Aurora Ellis)