* Low natgas prices deter shipments to U.S. terminals
* Asia and Europe attract GDF Suez cargoes
* Company looks to expand Asia LNG business
By Edward McAllister
NEW YORK, May 13 (Reuters) - GDF Suez GSZ.PA, the United States’s biggest liquefied natural gas supplier, has diverted a number of cargoes away from U.S. terminals this year to higher-paying markets in Europe and Asia, the French gas and power group said on Friday.
Low U.S. gas prices, due to ample domestic supply, have deterred shippers from sending as many cargoes of LNG to U.S. shores this year, instead preferring to supply other markets where oil-linked gas prices have risen way above U.S. levels.
“There have been a number of diversions of uncommitted volumes to Asia and Europe over the past several months,” said GDF Suez North America spokeswoman Julie Vitek, declining to give specific volumes.
Massive increases in shale gas production in the United States have kept gas prices around $4 per million British thermal units this year, less than half British gas prices and about one third of those in Asia. [LNG/]
An earthquake in top LNG importer Japan in March, which knocked out at least 9 gigawatts of nuclear power supply, has helped bolster Asian LNG prices to year highs near $13.
After receiving seven cargoes of LNG in January, GDF Suez’s Everett terminal in Massachusetts - the busiest in North America - received four tankers in April and is expected to receive four in May, according to Waterborne Energy analysts. Most of the cargoes come from Trinidad, with some arriving from Yemen.
GDF Suez has in the past requested the right to divert LNG produced by Yemen LNG, where the company has an offtake agreement, away from the U.S. to markets in Asia, according to media reports.
GDF is one of the world’s biggest LNG traders with a fleet of 18 LNG tankers and regasification terminals in the United States, Europe and India.
The sprawling utility, which in recent years has invested heavily in LNG, has said that it plans to expand its LNG portfolio and diversify its sales markets in Asia. (Editing by Marguerita Choy)