RPT-Russia ships record high LNG volumes to Europe in February

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LONDON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Russia delivered a record amount of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe in February, becoming the biggest supplier of the chilled fuel to the continent for the first time.

A total of 19 cargoes, or 1.41 million tonnes, of LNG from the Yamal LNG plant in Russia’s Arctic reached regasification terminals in Europe in February, with the majority of those going to northwest Europe, Refinitiv Eikon data shows.

This is the largest monthly amount of LNG from Yamal to arrive in Europe since the plant was launched in Dec. 2017 and also the first time Russia has become the biggest LNG supplier to Europe, surpassing traditional suppliers, such as Qatar, Nigeria and Algeria, as well as a newcomer, the United States.

The jump in Russia’s deliveries to Europe shows how lower-than-expected LNG demand and lower prices in Asia have made Europe a top destination for LNG produced in the Atlantic basin this winter, a drastic change from the previous winter.

None of the Yamal cargoes found a home in Asia in February, for the first time since May, data showed.

Asian LNG and European gas prices have been almost at parity this winter. This week, the Asian LNG delivery price was around $0.30 million British thermal units (mmBtu) above the UK front-month gas price, against over a $2.00/mmBtu premium a year ago.

Russia’s Novatek, a major shareholder at Yamal, has arranged a swap of some cargoes this winter to supply its Asian positions with Pacific-sources LNG, instead of delivering cargoes from Yamal to reduce shipping costs amid the low price spread.

Some traders expect the price spread will remain tight throughout 2019, with Atlantic-produced cargoes continuing to come to Europe.

Novatek and China’s PetroChina, another Yamal offtaker, have been active selling spot Yamal cargoes to Europe this winter.

The data also highlights how the low cost of Russian LNG allows it to compete for European buyers.

On Wednesday, Novatek’s Chief Financial Officer Mark Gyetvay told the IP Week conference in London that Novatek was able to deliver LNG to Europe for $3.15/mmBtu.

In February, shipments from the United States to Europe dropped to nine cargoes, or 0.64 million tonnes, the lowest level since November, largely due to lower loadings in the U.S. caused by maintenances and fog conditions at the Gulf of Mexico plants. U.S. exports dropped to the lowest level since October in February.

This is a change from January, when the U.S. was the second largest supplier of LNG to Europe after Qatar.

Supplies from Qatar have been stable at between 17-19 cargoes per month since October. In February, 18 cargoes, or 1.33 million tonnes, were delivered to Europe, which is five cargoes more than at the same month a year ago.

Nigeria delivered 16 cargoes in February, against 18 in January. Algeria supplied 18 cargoes to Europe this month, one cargo less than in January. (Reporting by Ekaterina Kravtsova; editing by Nina Chestney and Alexandra Hudson)