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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures rose about 5% to a near-nine week high on Wednesday as worries about Russia’s plan to price energy exports in roubles caused global energy prices to spike, keeping demand for US liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports near record highs.

That US gas price gain came despite forecasts for milder weather and lower demand than previously expected, which should allow utilities to inject gas into storage next week.

Germany on Wednesday triggered an emergency plan to manage gas supplies in Europe’s largest economy in an unprecedented move that could see the government ration power if there is a disruption or halt in gas supplies from Russia. That caused gas prices at the Title Transfer Facility (TTF) in the Netherlands, the European benchmark, to jump about 18% to around $41 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) earlier in the session.

European prices, however, pared gains - trading around $39 per mmBtu Wednesday afternoon - after Russia said it will not immediately demand buyers pay for its gas exports in roubles, promising a gradual shift.

On their first day as the front month, gas futures for May delivery rose 26.3 cents, or 4.9%, to $5.593 per mmBtu by 1:43 p.m. EDT (1743 GMT), putting the contract on track for its highest close since Jan. 27.

The US gas market remains mostly shielded from higher global prices because the United States has all the fuel it needs for domestic use and the country’s ability to export more LNG is constrained by limited capacity.

The United States is already producing LNG near full capacity. So it will not be able to export much more of the supercooled fuel regardless of how high global gas prices rise.

The United States, the world’s top gas producer, has agreed to divert some of its LNG exports Europe to help allies break their dependence on Russian gas after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Russia, the world’s second-biggest gas producer, provided about 30-40% of Europe’s gas, which totaled about 18.3 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) in 2021.

Data provider Refinitiv said average gas output in the US Lower 48 states rose to 93.3 bcfd so far in March, up from 92.5 bcfd in February, as more oil and gas wells return to service after freezing over the winter. That compares with a monthly record of 96.2 bcfd in December.

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