(In OCT 20 story corrects bid-offer spread, paragraph 3)
By Oleg Vukmanovic
LONDON, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Asian spot LNG prices fell this week as reluctant buyers submitted lower bids, more supply emerged and Egypt’s call for 12 shipments in Q1 2018 undershot expectations by traders.
Spot prices LNG-AS for December delivery fell to $8.70 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), 20 cents below last week levels. However, at least two traders pegged December prices at around the $8.50-8.60 per mmBtu level, arguing that buyers were unlikely to pay up.
Bid-offer spreads remained somewhat wide with bids submitted at around the mid-$8/mmBtu and offers in the high-$8/mmBtu range, two traders said.
Egypt’s tender for deliveries between January and March - including three shipments which are to be imported via Jordan - was seen as a bearish signal for global gas markets as traders had expected Egypt to seek five cargoes per month, not four.
Petroleum Minister Terek El Molla said in September the country was on track to cease importing LNG by the end of 2018, a goal seen as unrealistic by some analysts.
Egypt’s mega purchase tenders of the past several years turned the country into one of the world’s fastest-growing LNG importers, absorbing hundreds of shipments and propping up global prices for the fuel.
Weaker spot Asian prices come after weeks of gains which saw the contract rally more than 40 percent since the end of August.
“The market has really overshot, driven by a variety of factors from the extent of Chinese demand, which was completely unexpected, to rising NBP [British gas] prices and other factors such as Hurricane Harvey,” one trade source said.
Another source added that prices are set for a further correction. “There is downside risk for December prices and upside risk for the first quarter.”
Given rapidly growing imports by Chinese companies this year, traders believe stocks there to be healthy and demand covered for November and December so long as temperatures stay within normal bounds.
But Chinese and other buyers are expected to seek more supply for delivery from January onwards. Weather will be a driving factor for demand and traders are waiting for a clearer sense of temperature forecasts for the period.
Russia’s Sakhalin II LNG export plant on Friday launched a tender offering a late-December loading cargo, traders said.
Nigeria’s NLNG export plant put a Nov. 5-7 loading cargo up for tender, with bids due by Oct. 24.
The first cargo from Chevron’s latest LNG export facility Wheatstone, in Australia, is due to be shipped using the Asia Venture tankers which is currently moored just outside the facility, according to ship-tracking data.
On the demand side, Gail India is seeking three cargoes for delivery between mid-November and January, with bids due by Oct. 24. A trader said Gail had tacked on an extra fourth cargo for the tender for delivery in October, but this was expected to be a formality for a already pre-agreed purchase.
Bharat Petroleum also seeks a December delivery via spot market tender. Gujarat State Petroleum Company was also said to be seeking volumes but it was not possible to confirm details.
Bids for a tender by Indonesia’s Tangguh plant to sell up to 22 cargoes in 2018 are due next week.
A tender by Pakistan LNG seeking four shipments for delivery in January closed this week.
With wide spreads between European gas markets and Asia, British utility Centrica is expected to export a cargo from the Isle of Grain terminal using the Cool Voyager tanker. One source said the cargo may be headed to India.
Reporting by Oleg Vukmanovic; Editing by David Evans