May 3, 2019 / 5:44 PM / 18 days ago

Prices climb but cargoes change direction signal uncertainty

LONDON (Reuters) - Asian spot prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) edged up this week amid stronger bids from market players with short positions and expectations of a rise in northern hemisphere summer demand in Asia.

FILE PHOTO: A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker is tugged towards a thermal power station in Futtsu, east of Tokyo, Japan November 13, 2017. Picture taken November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

The price for delivery of LNG to northeast Asia in June is estimated at $5.60 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), a 30 cent rise from the previous week.

“The buying is still not strong, but we understand that there are a few players short for summer,” an LNG trader said.

The uptick may not be long-lasting as demand from end-users remained subdued, while production from Australia is also going up, creating additional supply in the Pacific basin.

Traders in Japan and China were largely on holiday this week, with trading activity led by portfolio and trading firms.

Strong bids came from Vitol in the Platts market on close (MOC) window. On Friday, it bid at $5.55 mmBtu for an end June cargo, while lowest offer was from Trafigura at $5.75 mmBtu for a mid-June cargo.

Asian prices have risen from about $4.40 mmBtu in late March, when they were below European gas prices, to trade at a premium, which is now firming.

But the Asian premium that was still below $1.00 mmBtu on Friday is not enough to make Asia a more attractive destination for spot cargoes from the Atlantic.

In Europe, the Dutch June gas price rose around 15 cents in the past week to about $4.80 mmBtu, with cargoes in northwest Europe priced at around a 30 cent discount to the gas price.

Gas traders expect European June contracts to be supported by maintenance work on Norwegian gas facilities and fields. Some 50 million cubic meters a day are expected to be out of action in Norway next week and that may double the following week.

“Asian LNG prices are still very much keeping up with what’s happening in Europe,” a market source said.

Uncertainty about the development of price correlation between Asia and Europe has left the destination for some cargoes unclear.

Three cargoes loaded in the United States changed their direction from Europe to Asia, Refinitiv Eikon data showed.

Royal Dutch Shell’s Pan Africa turned away from Europe while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Trafigura’s Gaslog Santiago was heading to Gibraltar but turned south before entering the strait. Naturgy’s Iberica Knutsen took a course toward Spain but turned back to head to Taiwan.

In Europe, two vessels appeared directionless, with the LNG Sokoto changing its destination twice over a week and the Al Khattiya took a week to travel from the south of Spain through the English Channel.

In Americas, Mexican utility CFE awarded its 17-cargo tender to a variety of companies, including BP, Shell and Naturgy, market sources said.

Reporting by Ekaterina Kravtsova; Editing by Edmund Blair

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