MILAN (Feb 14): Asian spot liquefied natural gas prices lagged behind Europe, where prices are at a premium, raising expectations that Qatar will send more cargoes to European shores amid scarce demand elsewhere.
The price of Asian spot LNG for delivery in March fell to around $6.70 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) this week, 20 cents below last week levels.
Prices of cargoes for April delivery, which will be the new front-month contract from next week, were even lower at around $6.60 per mmBtu.
The counterpart March gas contract at Europe's benchmark hub, the UK's NBP, traded at $8.16 per mmBtu by 1607 GMT, establishing the biggest premium over Asian prices seen in five years.
Although Europe's price premium to Asia is not yet sufficient to pull in cargoes produced in Australia or Malaysia, it could result in more supply coming from the world's biggest exporter Qatar, equidistant between Europe and Asia.
It also means that LNG produced within the Atlantic Basin will be consumed within the region, and not diverted East as in previous years.
Gas price gains in Europe were driven by unexpected production caps of Netherlands' giant Groningen gasfield on Feb 9, which by Thursday had led to a 20 percent cut in Dutch gas output.
There were also pockets of demand in Asia, with Thailand's state-run PTT holding a tender to buy four cargoes in 2015, a trader said.
India's Gail has also launched a tender to buy six cargoes over two years which closes on Feb. 18, the same trader said.
Countering demand, Australia's North West Shelf LNG export plant launched a sell tender for one cargo on Monday.
In addition, Nigeria's Bonny Island LNG export plant is expected to offer a cargo for sale soon loading in February, traders said.
Argentina is not expected to launch a buy tender for supplies for at least another two months, traders said, and is even then only likely to seek one or two cargoes for later this year.
Yemen is to complete a major overhaul of one of its LNG production plants, or trains, within a week, the general manager of the Yemen LNG Company said.
"Normal operations are ongoing with train 1 and a planned major overhaul is being carried out on train 2 that should be completed within a week," Jacques Azibert, General Manager, Yemen LNG said in a comment sent to Reuters.
Algerian LNG shipments from its Arzew port have resumed after bad weather prevented tankers loading.
The country's Skikda LNG plant remains in maintenance.