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LONDON: Asian spot liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices were flat this week, as buyers continue to focus on early winter deliveries with limited need for late summer supply, while high inventories in Europe are putting pressure on prices. The average LNG price for September delivery into northeast Asia remained stable at $10.80 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), unchanged from the previous week, industry sources estimated.

“Asian markets remain weak, most of the summer heating demand has been covered and general speculative demand is sitting on the sidelines looking for a floor,” said Toby Copson, global head of trading at Trident LNG.

“There is demand coming from India and Thailand looking to cover at these lower prices before we move into (the) winter demand cycle,” he added. Samuel Good, deputy head of LNG pricing at commodity pricing agency Argus, said Asian buyers continue to eye the potential for any late-season cooling power demand, that could lift power sector gas burn considerably and weigh on terminal stocks heading into winter.

He added that above-average temperatures in Japan and South Korea are forecast to continue well into August. “Both countries have seen an increase in available nuclear generation capacity, which is squeezing thermal generation in their respective baseload generation mixes, limiting the impact of greater cooling demand on gas burn,” Good said.

Dominic Gallagher, head of LNG broking at Tullett Prebon, said that while Japanese storage sits at 2.10 million tonnes (MT), slightly above the fie-year average, it remains below its level at this point in both 2021 and 2022, which could trigger consistent demand in the near future.

In Europe, hot weather demand in Europe is stymied by stable LNG and recently recovered Norwegian supplies.

ON TRACK

Europe’s gas storage sites were 82.5% full, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe, meaning the bloc is well on track to meet a target to have stores 90% full by Nov. 1.

S&P Global Commodity Insights assessed its daily northwest Europe LNG Marker (NWM) price benchmark for cargoes delivered in September on an ex-ship (DES) basis at $9.691/mmBtu on July 20, a $0.05/mmBtu discount to the September gas price at the Dutch TTF hub, according to Allen Reed, managing editor of Atlantic LNG.

Argus assessed the northwest Europe DES price at $9.40/mmBtu, while Spark Commodities estimated the price at $9.254/mmBtu.

“The arbitrage for US cargos to voyages to Asia remains open via the Panama (canal) and the Cape of Good Hope, forcing European buyers to bid higher to compete for cargos. Most European regasification is now unprofitable and slots may go unutilised,” said Henry Bennett, global head of pricing at Spark Commodities. Spot LNG freight remained range-bound this week with Atlantic spot rates estimated at $71,250/day on Friday, and Pacific rates at $69,750/day, Bennett said.

Argus’ Good said prompt activity in the LNG freight market remains particularly thin, with few vessel requirements being largely countered by weak availability, while charterers consider their shipping needs to take advantage of the fourth quarter’s temporal price spreads.

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