Asia spot LNG prices flat as ample inventories weigh

(Reuters) - Asian spot LNG was flat this week to trend at a near three-year low as high inventories kept prices capped, though the slump in prices has attracted some spot demand.

The average LNG price for April delivery into north-east Asia LNG-AS remained at $8.30 per MMbut, its weakest level since mid-April 2021.

"There are South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Chinese buyers in the spot market, but their spot purchases are not expected to exert significant upward pressure on prices," said Siamak Adibi, director for gas and LNG supply analytics at consultancy FGE.

PetroVietnam Gas had also issued a tender seeking two spot LNG cargoes, with the first to be delivered between April 1 and April 20. The delivery window of the second cargo has yet to be determined.

Although traders continue to eye price-sensitive demand around the $8/mmBtu price level, the region is still amply supplied, said Samuel Good, head of LNG pricing at commodity pricing agency Argus.

"Terminal inventories (are) largely understood to still be high as northeast Asia looks beyond the end of winter and to the coming summer with its typically strong summer cooling power demand," he said.

"Temperature forecasts for the turn of seasons across the region have been revised slightly higher over the past week, which could limit late-season heating demand and help to buoy terminal inventories further, in turn limiting summer stock builds."

In China, a research arm of state energy giant China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) had forecast the country's natural gas demand to grow 6.1% to reach 415.7 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2024, with imports expected to account for 43.1% of this.

LNG imports are seen growing 8.1% to 77.11 million tons this year, below 2021's record of 78.93 million tons, despite a significant increase in LNG port receiving capacity over the last year.

In Europe, S&P Global Commodity Insights assessed its daily North West Europe LNG Marker (NWM) price benchmark for cargoes delivered in April on an ex-ship (DES) basis at $7.441/mmBtu on Feb. 29, or a $0.49/mmBtu discount to the April gas price at the Dutch TTF hub.

Argus assessed the price at $7.450/mmBtu, while Spark Commodities assessed it at $7.401/mmBtu.

Europe gas prices saw some gains earlier this week amid an increase to an unplanned outage at a Norwegian gas field, but inventories in the region remain ample. NG/EU

"February has experienced mild temperatures in Europe, contributing to higher gas inventories compared to 2023. This trend is expected to continue through the summer if we don't see any major supply outage," said FGE's Adibi.

"We don't see a demand trigger in Europe, given the shift to milder weather and the ongoing trend of weak economic performance. In fact, with stable non-Russian pipeline supplies, Europe LNG demand is likely to remain subdued."

Meanwhile, spot LNG freight rates fell further this week to their lowest since June 2023, said Spark Commodities analyst Qasim Afghan.

Atlantic rates this week were estimated at $47,750/day on Friday, while Pacific rates were at $53,500/day.

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