By Ekaterina Kravtsova
LONDON (Reuters) – Asian spot prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) slipped this week, weighed by global oversupply and rising floating storage, which offset some buying interest and plant maintenance, which reduced production.
The average LNG price for December delivery into northeast Asia was estimated at $6.30 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), $0.50/mmbtu down from last week.
Buyers from Japan, South Korea and Pakistan came to the market looking for winter cargoes, but market sources said it was not enough to reduce a significant global oversupply, adding that the market was overpriced in recent weeks.
The number of vessels floating with cargoes onboard soared to 28 from 19 in the past week, according to data provider Kpler.
The majority of those cargoes were loaded close to a month ago or more, with some loaded back in August, meaning that sellers may be under pressure to unload them as soon as possible.
“Generally you cannot store LNG on a vessel for more than two months due to its aging and boil-off,” one LNG trader said, referring to natural evaporation.
“Those who have been floating LNG for 1.5 months are likely offering cargoes with a significant discount, which puts pressure on the market.”
At least five tankers from the floating storage were loaded close to 1.5 months ago or more.
The drop in Asian prices has resulted in a tighter spread between Europe and Asia, with the arbitrage for cargoes from the United States to Asia closing this week.
The trade from the Atlantic basin to the Pacific has also been impacted by high shipping rates.
Rates were estimated at around $130,000-140,000 per day this week. Two shipping sources said that there was also a deal at $150,000/day in the Atlantic basin this week.
Pakistan issued a tender on Friday to buy five LNG cargoes for delivery in January 2020, Pakistan LNG documents showed.
JERA Global Markets (JERAGM) this week closed a tender for up to 0.5 million tonnes of spot LNG for delivery in the first quarter of 2020.
South Korea’s KOGAS, which was looking to buy spot LNG after buying three November cargoes, might have bought up to 15 cargoes for January and February delivery, two trade sources said. This could not be immediately confirmed.
Also in South Korea, POSCO and SK were jointly looking to buy a cargo for December delivery, one trader said.
High stock levels across northeast Asia and low Chinese demand impacted prices, however.
On the supply side, a number of outages are reducing supply somewhat, but that is also not enough to balance the market.
RasGas Train 6 and 7 in Qatar went offline this week for planned maintenance, but customers were expected to receive their supply.
There are ongoing issues at the Cameron LNG project in the United States, several sources said.
The last cargo was loaded there on Oct. 11, Refintiv Eikon data showed.
“Cameron LNG does not comment on commercial arrangements between Cameron and its customers; however, we continue to produce LNG and load cargos in accordance with the schedule agreed with our customers,” Cameron LNG spokeswoman told Reuters this week.
Feedgas at another new U.S. export plant, Freeport, was reduced this week, with Kpler reporting ongoing issues during commissioning.
There are also maintenance works at Australia’s Gorgon and North West Shelf projects.
(Reporting by Ekaterina Kravtsova; Editing by Jan Harvey)