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* Japanese utility seeks second cargo this month -sources
* Freeport LNG plant expected to load commissioning cargo soon
* Contango narrows, limiting floating storage opportunity -trade
By Jessica Jaganathan
SINGAPORE, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Asian spot prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) remained steady this week amid sweltering heat in Japan driving buying activity, while a new project in the United States is expected to load its first cargo soon.
Spot prices for October delivery to Northeast Asia LNG-AS are estimated to be about $4.70 to $4.90 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), slightly up from last week’s $4.75 per mmBtu, the sources said.
Prices for September delivery are estimated to be about $4.20 per mmBtu, same as the previous week, they said.
Japanese utility Tohoku Electric Power sought a cargo for September delivery in a tender that closes on Aug. 16, its second spot requirement this month, industry sources said.
“(Japanese utilities) should be drawing down inventory given that it has been so hot,” a Singapore-based trader said.
Soaring temperatures have killed at least 57 people across Japan since late July. The Japan Meteorological Agency is forecasting temperatures as high as 37 degrees Celsius over the weekend and into next week. Temperatures in some parts of Japan touched above 40 degrees Celsius this month.
Malaysia’s Petronas also sold a spot cargo at below $5 per mmBtu, an industry source said. Details on the buyer were not immediately available.
Demand from India was also seen this week with Gujarat State Petroleum Corp (GSPC) and Indian Oil Corp each seeking a cargo for delivery over August to October, industry sources said.
Still, supply was ample with Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (KUFPEC) offering a Wheatstone cargo for September loading, while Angola’s LNG project and Russia’s Sakhalin 2 plant also offered cargoes for September, sources said.
Freeport LNG is expected to load its first LNG cargo soon from its export plant in Texas.
Two LNG tankers, LNG Jurojin and Sohshu Maru, are currently enroute to the plant likely to pick up commissioning cargoes, according to industry sources and shiptracking data from Eikon.
Traders expect the price spread between September and October to narrow given the roll-over in the pricing assessment month, and that will likely limit floating storage options.
“The contango is narrowing and charter rates are going up, so that limits floating storage,” a Singapore-based trader said. (Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Tom Hogue)