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GLOBAL LNG-Asian prices fall below Dutch benchmark, driving cargoes west

Asian spot prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) this week fell to their lowest in nearly three years driven by excess supply and lack of buying interest in the region.

Spot prices for May delivery to Northeast Asia LNG-AS dropped to $4.40 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) this week, down 25 cents from the previous week and the lowest since April 22, 2016, Refinitiv data showed.

Offers were plenty with Russia’s Sakhalin 2 and Angola LNG plants offering cargoes for April to May, traders said. Australia’s new Ichthys project sold at least one cargo for April while Indonesia’s Pertamina offered a spot cargo for May and 11 cargoes for May to December, they added.

Shell’s Prelude floating LNG platform that recently shipped out its first condensate cargo is also expected to ship out LNG soon, though the specific timeline was not clear, traders said.

Buying interest from North Asia was scarce except for one recent purchase from South Korea’s POSCO for a May cargo at about $4.40 per mmBtu, two trade sources said.

Gas inventories in Asia are high and buyers are shunning cargoes and re-directing them to Europe, sources said earlier this week.

Several Chinese companies were reselling cargoes they did not need due to high inventory, two traders said.

The Japan Korea Marker, the benchmark for Asian spot LNG cargoes, has fallen below the Title Transfer Facility (TTF) price in the Netherlands, a European benchmark, in an unusual move that is driving cargoes west, traders said.

Gail India sold a U.S. cargo bound for Asia to northwest Europe, as part of optimisation and to take advantage of the price spread, sources said.

However, the low prices are attracting interest from buyers in India, trade sources said.

India’s Reliance and Gail (India) were both seeking cargoes for May while Indian Oil Corp and Petronet were also seeking cargoes, they added. Still, limited import capacity in the country could curb their purchase volumes, a trader familiar with the market said.

In Western Australia, Dampier and Ashburton ports have re-opened and LNG operations are slowly being ramped up at Woodside Petroleum’s Pluto and North West Shelf LNG plants, industry sources said.

The company said earlier this week it had evacuated all personnel from offshore production platforms off Western Australia ahead of Cyclone Veronica, and was operating the North West Shelf LNG and Pluto LNG plants on skeleton staff.

Once the plants are back fully online, supply could further dampen prices, the sources said.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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