March Price Eases But Bitter Cold Arrests Decline


SINGAPORE, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Asian spot LNG prices eased further this week on expectations of reduced buying but plunging temperatures in Japan, South Korea and China prevented a steep price decline.

Spot prices for March <LNG-AS> delivery in Asia fell 20 cents to $10.20 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), according to LNG traders in Asia. This is the lowest price since Dec. 7, but 36 percent higher than the same period last year, Reuters data showed.

Cargoes for delivery in February are trading at close to $12 per mmBtu, they added, as spot demand from Japan remained firm.

"Many buyers have rolled over their requirements to buy in March as February prices were too high, so March should still be supported," a Singapore-based LNG trader said.

Power utilities in Japan have been snapping up spot cargoes over the past two weeks for delivery in February and early March, as flagging temperatures in northern Asia are set to dip further, a second Singapore-based LNG trader said.

Japan's imports of LNG rose to nearly 8.7 million tonnes last month, up 8 percent from December and the largest volume since at least January, 2013, according to ship tracking data on Thomson Reuters Eikon that goes back five years.

Temperatures in Japan and South Korea look set to dip lower this week, according to Eikon data.

There was speculation by traders of potential spot LNG demand emerging from South Korea given the bitterly cold temperatures.

In China, gas shortages continue though traders have largely scaled back their spot purchases for the first quarter. Deliveries into China slipped to 4.9 million tonnes in January, from the peak of about 5 million tonnes in December, Reuters data showed.

South Korea's POSCO bought a cargo for March 2 to 5 delivery into Gwangyang at a premium of about $10.30 to $10.50 per mmBtu, traders said.

This is similar to a cargo purchased by Japan's Tohoku Electric for a second-half March cargo, they added.

Australia's APLNG sold a cargo for early February at a premium between $11.80 and $12 per mmBtu while India's Gail may have bought a spot cargo for March at a premium of $9.50 to $10 per mmBtu, traders said.

Exports from Indonesia with around 345 million cubic metres loaded onto tankers in the week starting Jan. 29, compared with 591 mcm in the previous week, according to data on Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Some trade sources said Indonesia's Bontang LNG export facility was experiencing feed gas issues. One off-taker said Pertamina informed them that output had been affected.


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