* IOC and CNOOC buy cargoes at below $4/mmBtu
* European gas prices trading lower
* Traders making inquiries for spot vessels
By Jessica Jaganathan
SINGAPORE, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Asian spot prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) dropped to a more than three-year low this week, dragged down by cargoes trading at near record low prices, trade sources said.
Spot prices for September delivery to Northeast Asia LNG-AS are estimated to be about $4.10 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), down 15 cents from last week, the sources added. This is the lowest the price has dropped to since April, 2016, Reuters data showed.
Ample supply of LNG and still-weak demand for the super-chilled fuel has seen at least two spot trades done below $4 per mmBtu for August and September cargoes, they added.
Indian Oil Corp bought a cargo for delivery in the second half of August from commodity trader Trafigura at $3.69 per mmBtu through a tender, industry sources have said.
China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) bought a cargo for delivery in early September from Vitol at $3.90 per mmBtu, the sources added.
The last time a cargo traded below $4 was likely about three to four years ago, two sources said.
IOC also bought a cargo for September delivery at $4.20 per mmBtu from Vitol, while PetroChina bought a cargo for September delivery from Vitol at $4.05 per mmBtu during the S&P Global Platts trading period on Wednesday, the sources added.
“Given (the low European gas prices), I wont be surprised if more below $4 deals happen,” a Singapore-based trader said.
European spot LNG prices have been trading at a discount to the benchmark Dutch month-ahead gas price at levels below $3.40 per mmBtu this week.
Still, traders appear to be taking advantage of the low spot prices by starting to make enquiries to book vessels to store or ship LNG as they bet for winter demand to boost prices.
At least one Japanese trader has issued a vessel enquiry for 60 days to charter an Australian cargo loading in September, said a shipbroker.
Australia’s Ichthys LNG plant has offered two cargoes for loading in early September, traders said.
On the demand side, Turkish state energy company state energy company Botas is looking to buy three cargoes for delivery in August, September and October, while India’s Gujarat State Petroleum Corp (GSPC) sought cargo for delivery in early September, sources said.
Guangzhou Gas is also seeking a cargo for late August delivery into Dapeng via a tender, traders said.
Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan; Editing by Rashmi Aich