Global LNG-Prices flat as demand remains weak

MILAN/LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Asian spot liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices were little changed for January delivery as trade stayed thin and demand weak, tilting more supply towards Europe.

The spot price LNG-AS for January remained around $9.50 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) on Friday, while prices for February were just 20 cents higher.

At those levels it is more profitable to send cargoes produced in the Atlantic Basin to Europe instead of to Asia, traders said.

“At current prices, the spread between European and Asian markets is closed,” one trader said.

“However, I believe supply from the East is not enough to cover potential extra demand if there is any cold snap there this winter,” he added, suggesting that Asian prices would rise to again attract supply from the Atlantic.

Another trader said some supply may still move towards Asia as trading companies and oil majors cover short positions.

South Korea’s Kogas, the world’s biggest LNG buyer, may re-enter the spot market given rock-bottom prices to replenish reserves.

The company is due to receive six start-up cargoes from Santos’ Gladstone LNG export project in Australia next year, two industry sources with knowledge of the matter said.

As well as winning cargoes in recent tenders, Kogas has also purchased two shipments from Singapore-based Pavilion over the past few months, sources said.

Nigeria’s Bonny Island LNG export plant has sold a single cargo set to load in mid-December.

With weak global demand, Europe’s liquid gas hubs are seen as the best place to offload supply, with traders examining options for delivering into Britain’s Dragon terminal.

Egypt will import six LNG cargoes from Algeria between April and September next year, easing an energy crunch that has plunged the country into repeated blackouts this year.

It was unclear if this deal replaced cargoes Egypt had lined up from Gazprom, EDF and others.

The gap between global natural gas prices has shrunk to its narrowest since 2010, as faltering demand in Asia combined with rising supply across the board aligns benchmarks pulled apart by the U.S. shale boom and Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Editing by Jason Neely