* India's GAIL to buy 19 cargoes through March, 9 spot
* PetroChina awards 4 cargo tender
* Skikda on track to finish maintenance by end-month-source
LONDON, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Asian spot LNG prices climbed above $17 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) this week as India, Japan and China looked for winter cargoes to meet rising demand as temperatures drop.
Asian LNG prices (LNG-AS) rose to around $17.15/mmBtu for December delivery from around $17.00/mmBtu last week.
The chairman of India's state-run utility GAIL on Friday said it plans step up winter purchases with 19 additional LNG cargoes through March, 9 of which will be sourced from the spot market.
PetroChina has awarded a tender it launched last week for the delivery of four LNG cargoes during the winter months, although it was not possible to confirm which firms will provide supply.
Japanese buyers may have picked up cargoes recently in the broad price range referred to above, although this could not be confirmed with the companies concerned.
Price gains reflect growing demand in the region as winter nears, stockpiles run down and nuclear availability in key consumer countries such as South Korea drops, increasing demand for fossil fuel imports in the power generation sector.
Korea is expected to face potential power blackouts again this winter and next summer as a scandal over fake certificates at nuclear plants has kept a quarter of its 23 reactors and some new reactors offline.
The country's state-run utility KEPCO said on Friday it is considering raising electricity charges for industrial users, after running up massive losses as part of a government initiative to curb inflation.
In the short term, however, the country's gas imports have been easing, with South Korea's imports of LNG down to 11.4 percent to 2.48 million tonnes in September from a year earlier.
Some additional LNG supply will be coming onto the Asia Pacific spot market, with Indonesia planning to sell up to four LNG cargoes that would not be absorbed by the domestic market this year.
Maintenance at Algeria's new 4.5 million tonne per year production train at Skikda is on track to return to production at the end of the month, a source with knowledge of operations said.
In the Americas, Argentina awarded a tender for supply between 2014 and 2015. BP will deliver 40 of the 48 cargoes required for the country's Bahia Blanca terminal, with Gazprom sending five shipments and Statoil three.
Spain's Gas Natural Fenosa is said to have won the exclusive right to supply the country's other terminal at Escobar on the Parana River.
That award could be overturned by an Argentine court, however, if a ruling banning the firm from participating in the tender last week is upheld by a judge at a later date, some traders said.
Argentina's demand for the fuel has been rising due to a fall in local production.